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People have better metacognitive sensitivity for decisions about the presence compared to the absence of objects. However, it is not only objects themselves that can be present or absent, but also parts of objects and other visual features. Asymmetries in visual search indicate that a disadvantage for representing absence may operate at these levels as well. Furthermore, a processing advantage for surprising signals suggests that a presence/absence asymmetry may be explained by absence being passively represented as a default state, and presence as a default-violating surprise. It is unknown whether the metacognitive asymmetry for judgments about presence and absence extends to these different levels of representation (object, feature, and default violation). To address this question and test for a link between the representation of absence and default reasoning more generally, here we measure metacognitive sensitivity for discrimination judgments between stimuli that are identical except for the presence or absence of a distinguishing feature, and for stimuli that differ in their compliance with an expected default state.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurosci Conscious

Publication Date





absence, metacognition, presence