Influential theories emphasize the importance of predictions in learning: we learn from feedback to the extent that it is surprising, and thus conveys new information. Here we explore the hypothesis that surprise depends not only on comparing current events to past experience, but also on online evaluation of performance via internal monitoring. Specifically, we propose that people leverage insights from response-based performance monitoring – outcome predictions and confidence – to control learning from feedback. In line with predictions from a Bayesian inference model, we find that people who are better at calibrating their confidence to the precision of their outcome predictions learn more quickly. Further in line with our proposal, EEG signatures of feedback processing are sensitive to the accuracy of, and confidence in, post-response outcome predictions. Taken together, our results suggest that online predictions and confidence serve to calibrate neural error signals to improve the efficiency of learning.
eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd