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Metacognition in teams and organizations


Metacognition is cognition about cognition, thinking about thinking, knowing about knowing, and feeling about thinking (Alter & Oppenheimer, 2009; Petty, Brinol, Tormala, & Wegener, 2007; Schwarz, Sanna, Skurnik, & Yoon, 2007). In the case of teams and groups, metacognition is team members thinking about how their team processes information, works on problems, and feels about the team process (Hinsz, 2004; Hinsz, Tindale, & Vollrath, 1997). Similarly, the the case of organizations, metacognition is members of organizations thinking about how their organization functions and feels about the way their organization functions. We use the distinction between primary and secondary cognition to guide out review (Petty et al., 2007). Primary thoughts are those that occur at a direct level of cognition and involve people's initial associations. Following a primary thought, people can also generate secondary thoughts (i.e., metacognitions) that occur as reflections on the first-level thoughts or the processes that generated the primary thoughts. In their review, we focus on people's cognitions and feelings about groups, teams, and their organizations. We situate our review with regard to people as they interact with and work in teams and business organizations, as opposed to people cognizing about crowds or aggregates with whom they have no social or organizational relationship. Unfortunately, literature search using the phrases "metacognition and organizations," "metacognitions and teams," and "metacognition and groups" yielded very little (see Hinsz, 2004, for an exception). Yet, organizational behavior (OB) researchers resonate to the idea that managers, leaders, and their teams contemplate their thinking, behavior, and each other. Our thesis is that metacognition is alive and well in OB; it simply operates under a variety of banners (including transactive memory, shared mental models, group reflexivity, and so on) that paradoxically do not recognize one another. Throughout our review, we explore the following questions: Does metacognition help or hurt teams? Do metacognitive processes naturally emerge and develop or are they something that can be taught, leveraged, and trained?


Book Chapter


Leigh Thompson, Taya Cohen

Date Published



Thompson, Leigh, and Taya Cohen. 2012. Metacognition in teams and organizations.


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