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Metacognition of concepts

Project to investigate how we judge the reliability of certain concepts

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

An academic from City University London has been awarded a grant from the European Research Council to establish ways to measure how confident people are in the different concepts and categories that they use when thinking and talking about the world.

The €1,955,270 European Research Council Consolidator Metacognition of Concepts Grant, €186,634 of which is based at City, was co-awarded to Professor Nick Shea in the Philosophy Department at Kings College London and Professor James Hampton in the Department of Psychology at City.

Speaking about the grant, and the research it will fund, Professor Hampton said:

“People probably believe that scientific and medical concepts carry a lot of reliability – they are accurate ways of describing the world and allow us to make decisions and predictions. On the other hand other categories like types of restaurant, business jargon, or genres of music may be less reliable – we may have less faith in statements that employ these terms, and we may even doubt that the terms are meaningful at all.”

According to Professor Hampton, belief in a statement needs to be based on two things – firstly, whether you think the statement is true, and secondly whether you think the terms used in the statement actually mean anything. There has been little research on how people make judgments of the second kind, and this is what the researchers aim to explore.

The PI on the grant is Professor Nick Shea in the Philosophy Department at Kings and in addition there will be three postdoctoral fellows funded to work on the project. One of these is scheduled to work at City in 2017 to 18 to run empirical tests of the theoretical account that the team will be developing.

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