An adaptive cognitive system based on the Recognition
/ Metacognition model employs several types of visualization
aids. First, it provides a graphical representation of the
mental models that decision makers create and maintain to
understand the situation and arrive at an appropriate plan.
Second, it supports critical reflection on the mental models
by providing metacognitive annotations that represent different
types of uncertainty within the model. Third, it supports
and suggest strategies for handling the uncertainty and mitigating
the associated problems.
In real-world decision making, people do not reduce all types
of belief and uncertainty to a single measure (unlike classical
formal models). R/M aids emulate naturalistic strategies for
uncertainty handling. They recognize qualitatively different
patterns of uncertainty in a belief network, such as gaps,
conflict, and unreliable assumptions, and provide a rich capability
for supporting different uncertainty-handling strategies.
The Recognition / Metacognition
model summarizes a set of insights into proficient decision
making that have been gleaned in the course of empirical research.
Each of the components of the Recognition / Metacognition
model gives rise to a display requirement for critical thinking
support in a decision aid:
1. Evidence-conclusion relationships: The
decision aid should help users keep track of elements in a
mental model that provide support for an assessment or plan,
and distinguish them from elements that conflict with the
assessment or plan. It should help users recognize and organize
information that serves as reasons for or against the assessment
2. Incompleteness: The aid should help users
flesh out a mental model that
is centered on the assessment or plan of interest to them.
By pointing out gaps in the mental model, it helps them identify
potentially important but missing evidence for or against
the assessment or plan. Such information might influence their
evaluation of the plausibility of the mental model, and thus
help resolve significant uncertainty about the assessment
3. Conflict: The aid should help officers recognize
conflicting evidence or goals, i.e., mental models in which
some elements point toward one assessment or plan and other
elements points toward a different assessment or plan. The
aid should support a process of elaborating the mental
model in order to explain and resolove the conflict.
4. Unreliable assumptions: The aid should help
users identify the assumptions that are necessary in order
to make sense of an assessment or plan (e.g., by filling gaps
or resolving conflicts). It should help them evaluate the
assumptions both individually and as a package, replace unreliable
assumptions with more robust ones, and determine the comparative
plausibility of packages of assumptions associated with alternative
5. Quick Test: The aid should help users rapidly
distinguish items that require immediate commitment or action
-- because they are time critical, high confidence, or low
stakes items -- and help users prioritize other items that
warrant critical thinking -- because the stakes are high,
uncertainty is significant , and the cost of delay is acceptable.
6. Relationship to recognitional processing:
Critical thinking support should complement rather than interfere
with recognitional processing of more familiar situations.
Critical thinking is not an analytical method that only permits
judgments about component parts while excluding "intuition"
about the overall situation or solution. It starts with intuition
and then, if time is available, reflects on it, supplements
it, and guides it. Its outputs are not assignments of probabilities,
but coherent "stories" or situation pictures along
with metacognitive annotations about their strengths and weaknesses.
Unlike analytical methods, critical thinking in the R/M framework
does not demand that users decompose a problem into component
parts, make numerical assessments, and then mathematically
put the parts back together again. At any given time, the
user has a mental model upon which he or she can act, along
with enhanced understanding of where it might go wrong and
what can be done about it.