Are You Sure the Library Is That Way? Metacognitive Monitoring of Spatial Judgments

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Many studies have examined how people recall the locations of objects in spatial layouts. However, little is known about how people monitor the accuracy of judgments based on those memories. The goal of the present experiments was to examine the effect of reference frame characteristics on metacognitive accuracy for spatial judgments. Reference frame characteristics include the alignment of one’s viewpoint with the structure of the environment (allocentric alignment), direction of the target with respect to one’s current viewpoint (egocentric direction), and the type of perspective used to solve the task (egocentric vs. allocentric). Participants were tested on their knowledge of a well-known location in which they had experience navigating. They were asked to orient themselves toward a particular heading and point to target landmarks from this heading. They then rated their confidence in their pointing judgments. Confidence judgments were sensitive to the effects of allocentric alignment and egocentric direction on performance. However, they underestimate the magnitude of these effects. Follow-up regression analyses indicate that confidence in individual landmarks was a stronger predictor of confidence than reference frame characteristics. Overall, the results suggest that people use reference frame features and landmark confidence when monitoring performance in directional judgments.

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