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Metacognition is the ability to weigh the quality of our own cognition, such as the confidence that our perceptual decisions are correct. Here we ask whether metacognitive performance can itself be evaluated or else metacognition is the ultimate reflective human faculty. Building upon a classic visual perception task, we show that human observers are able to produce nested, above-chance judgements on the quality of their decisions at least up to the fourth order (i.e. meta-meta-meta-cognition). A computational model can account for this nested cognitive ability if evidence has a high-resolution representation, and if there are two kinds of noise, including recursive evidence degradation. The existence of fourth-order sensitivity suggests that the neural mechanisms responsible for second-order metacognition can be flexibly generalized to evaluate any cognitive process, including metacognitive evaluations themselves. We define the theoretical and practical limits of nested cognition and discuss how this approach paves the way for a better understanding of human self-regulation.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurosci Conscious

Publication Date





confidence, meta-metacognition, metacognition, nested cognition, perception