Vol 5, Issue 1, February 2018

Not Knowing What One Knows: A Meaningful Failure of Metacognition in Capuchin Monkeys


Smith, T. R., Smith, J. D., & Beran, M. J. (2018). Not knowing what one knows: A Meaningful failure of metacognition in capuchin monkeys. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 5(1), 55-67. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Metacognition encompasses the processes of monitoring representational and perceptual states and controlling information-gathering behaviors. Metacognition is considered one of humans’ most sophisticated abilities, and it has been a growing area of focus in comparative cognition research. Despite the successes of some species such as the great apes and some Old World monkeys, there has been a fairly consistent lack of metacognitive responding in the New World primate species, capuchin monkeys. These failures are meaningful for what they highlight about the phylogenetic breadth of metacognition, and for what they offer to ongoing debates about the proper interpretation of data from other species that do succeed in various tests of comparative metacognition. We summarize these meaningful failures and place them in a broader context of comparative metacognition research, with a specific focus on explaining what it might mean that some monkeys seemingly do not know what they know.


Metacognition, Uncertainty monitoring, Information seeking, Capuchin monkeys