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Neural Correlates of People's Hypercorrection of Their False Beliefs

Metcalfe, Janet A.; Butterfield, Brady; Habeck, Christian G.; Stern, Yaakov

Despite the intuition that strongly held beliefs are particularly difficult to change, the data on error correction indicate that general information errors that people commit with a high degree of belief are especially easy to correct. This finding is called the hypercorrection effect. The hypothesis was tested that the reason for hypercorrection stems from enhanced attention and encoding that results from a metacognitive mismatch between the person's confidence in their responses and the true answer. This experiment, which is the first to use imaging to investigate the hypercorrection effect, provided support for this hypothesis, showing that both metacognitive mismatch conditions—that in which high confidence accompanies a wrong answer and that in which low confidence accompanies a correct answer—revealed anterior cingulate and medial frontal gyrus activations. Only in the high confidence error condition, however, was an error that conflicted with the true answer mentally present. And only the high confidence error condition yielded activations in the right TPJ and the right dorsolateral pFC. These activations suggested that, during the correction process after error commission, people (1) were entertaining both the false belief as well as the true belief (as in theory of mind tasks, which also manifest the right TPJ activation) and (2) may have been suppressing the unwanted, incorrect information that they had, themselves, produced (as in think/no-think tasks, which also manifest dorsolateral pFC activation). These error-specific processes as well as enhanced attention because of metacognitive mismatch appear to be implicated.


Also Published In

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia Technology Ventures
Taub Institute
Sergievsky Center
Published Here
September 13, 2013