Metacognition is often simply described as “thinking about thinking.” However, in reality it is much more complex than that. The concept is often viewed in the context of learning and self-improvement as one of the 11 executive functions, of which (i) response inhibition, (ii) emotional control, (iii) working memory, (iv) sustained attention, (v) task initiation, (vi) planning/prioritizing, (vii) organization, (viii) time management, (ix) goal-directed persistence, and (x) flexibility are the other 10 skill areas. A developed metacognition involves the ability to stand back and objectively evaluate one’s own performance and recognize strengths and weaknesses. Such a person understands the impact of their behavior on others, including managing intent and impact, and performs tasks that require more abstract thinking.
As such, there are two basic types of metacognitive skills. The ability to assess her own performance on a task. The second is to evaluate social interactions, both the behavior and response of herself and others, and the consequences thereof on the situation. It is associated with an improved ability to predict risks and potential problems, develop alternative solutions to best deal with it and heed important information and consequences.
There is also the concept of postformal thought that is explained as the ability to conceive of multiple logics, choices, or perceptions to better conceptualize the complexities and inherent biases in “truth.” This fifth stage of development following Piaget’s fourth stage of formal operational thought is believed to start in early adulthood. A person with a well-developed sense of postformal thought can engage in dialectical thinking and conceptualize themselves as part of a larger whole which he impacts and is impacted upon. It is a dynamic world-centric perspective instead of a less-developed static ego- or social-centric view. Research has indicated that only about 3-5% of individuals make full meaning at this level, which implies a profound integration with all things while being “unattached” to it at the same time (i.e. not swayed by desires, needs, impulses, and expectations).