OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

An electrophysiological exploration of metacognitive errors in recognition memory


Alana Muller


The Dunning-Kruger effect is a metacognitive phenomenon in which individuals who perform poorly on a task believe they performed well, whereas individuals who performed very well believe their performance was only average. To date, this effect has only been investigated in the context of performance on mathematical, logical, or lexical tasks, but has yet to be explored for its generalizability and manifestation in episodic memory task performance. We used a novel method to elicit the Dunning-Kruger effect in CSUSB students via a memory test of item recognition confidence. Participants studied lists of words and were later tested on their episodic memory of the words using a five-point recognition confidence scale. After the test, participants were asked to estimate the percentile in which they performed compared to other students. Participants were separated into four groups based on their performance percentile. Results showed that participants in all four groups gave the same estimated percentile for their estimated performance. Participants in the bottom 25th percentile overestimated their percentile the most, while participants in the top 75th percentile slightly underestimated their percentile. Analyses assessed the role that episodic memory processes of recollection and familiarity play in influencing this metacognitive phenomenon of illusory superiority. Findings support Dunning and Kruger’s account for both low performers and high performers, in which low performers suffer from double ignorance and high performers suffer from the false consensus effect, extending this account to a novel paradigm of episodic memory.

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