Performance monitoring for sensorimotor confidence: A visuomotor tracking study

Shannon M. Locke, Pascal Mamassian, Michael S. Landy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To best interact with the external world, humans are often required to consider the quality of their actions. Sometimes the environment furnishes rewards or punishments to signal action efficacy. However, when such feedback is absent or only partial, we must rely on internally generated signals to evaluate our performance (i.e., metacognition). Yet, very little is known about how humans form such judgements of sensorimotor confidence. Do they monitor their actual performance or do they rely on cues to sensorimotor uncertainty? We investigated sensorimotor metacognition in two visuomotor tracking experiments, where participants followed an unpredictably moving dot cloud with a mouse cursor as it followed a random horizontal trajectory. Their goal was to infer the underlying target generating the dots, track it for several seconds, and then report their confidence in their tracking as better or worse than their average. In Experiment 1, we manipulated task difficulty with two methods: varying the size of the dot cloud and varying the stability of the target's velocity. In Experiment 2, the stimulus statistics were fixed and duration of the stimulus presentation was varied. We found similar levels of metacognitive sensitivity in all experiments, which was evidence against the cue-based strategy. The temporal analysis of metacognitive sensitivity revealed a recency effect, where error later in the trial had a greater influence on the sensorimotor confidence, consistent with a performance-monitoring strategy. From these results, we conclude that humans predominantly monitored their tracking performance, albeit inefficiently, to build a sense of sensorimotor confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104396
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Action
  • Confidence
  • Metacognition
  • Perception
  • Sensorimotor
  • Tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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