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Janet Metcalfe
Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1982

General Area of Research

Metacognition, evolution of self-reflective consciousness, study time allocation, judgments of learning

Current Research

Current research centers on how people know what they know, that is, their metacognitive abilities, and whether they use this evolutionarily unique ability efficaciously--for effective self-control. We have been studying people's abilities to make judgments of their own learning, focusing on a theoretical perspective that proposes that they are able to hone in on their own Region of Proximal Learning--items on which further study yield maximum learning payoffs. Recent theoretical efforts have been directed at clearly specifying the heuristics underlying how people isolate this region. Thus, we investigate what it is that people choose to study. However, it is also necessary to investigate whether what they choose to study is advantageous or not. Of course, the limitations in human metacognitive judgments figure large in this research program.

We also apply these studies of what people know about what they know and how they use this knowledge to affect their study (including whether they are able to appropriately choose and also to sustain their own attentional resources in a manner that maximizes their learning) to educational ends. Part of our research is directed at enhancing the study skills of at-risk middle school children. We conduct a cognitively and metacognitively guided study enhancement program in an at-risk school in the Bronx.

We continue to be involved in research investigating the consequences of stress on self-regulation and on memory: the Hot/Cool Framework of memory, self control, and emotion.

Relevant Publications

Metcalfe , J., and Kornell, N. (2005). A Region of Proximal Learning model of study time allocation. Journal of Memory and Language.

Terrace, H., and Metcalfe, J. (2004) The missing link in cognition: Origins of self-reflective consciousness. Oxford University Press.

Metcalfe , J., and Kornell , N. (2003). The dynamics of learning and allocation of study time to a Region of Proximal Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 132, 530-542.

Metcalfe, J. (2002). Is study time allocated selectively to a Region of Proximal Learning? Journal of
Experimental Psychology: General,
131, 349-363.

Metcalfe, J., and Mischel, W. (l999). A hot/cool system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. Psychological Review, 106, 3-19.

Courses Frequently Taught


Columbia University
Psychology Dept.
401B Schermerhorn
1190 Amsterdam Avenue MC: 5501
New York, NY 10027

Phone: 212-854-7971
Fax: 212-854-3609

Last modified: Feb 2, 2012 11:52:35 AM EST