Meta cognition simply means thinking about thinking. This simply means being aware of how your thoughts work as well as being aware of what your thoughts are doing at any given time.
This is split into two different ideas: metacognitive knowledge (knowledge of your own thoughts) and metacognitive regulation (control over your own thoughts using various strategies).
In theory, learning to better control your own thoughts can help you to improve your self-knowledge and to tap into the full potential of your brain at any given time. Let’s look at how you can do that.
Some Things You Didn’t Know About Meta Cognition
Firstly, what would be a good place to start with meta cognitive knowledge? A good place to start would be with the biology that underlies the way your brain works. By understanding this, you can know what’s actually going on inside your brain at any given time when you experience certain things or do certain things.
This means learning about the role of neurotransmitters and hormones and how they impact on your emotional state and also your ability to focus, to remember and to relax.
It also means learning about the nature of thought itself. This is a subject people don’t discuss that often but it’s filled with interesting titbits. For example, a sapir-whorf hypothesis states that we think in ‘language’ and that by changing the language we think in, we can actually upgrade our thoughts. For example, if you could think with shorter words you might be able to think faster. Likewise, choosing certain language could potential impact your emotions – so changing your vernacular could be a good strategy.
But then there are others that say language is unimportant. More important is the way we visualize what words mean or even feel what they mean by feeling what it would be like to enact a particular story we’re listening to for example. This is called ‘embodied cognition’ and it’s another very compelling school of thought.
How to Regulate Thought
Once you understand the nature of thought and how thoughts lead to learning, associations and the release of hormones and neurotransmitters, it can be useful to start thinking about the tools you can use to harness that knowledge.
One great example is CBT. This is ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ which is a set of psychotherapeutic tools that are used to give people more control over their thinking. Self-hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming are similar examples of frameworks and tools for changing your thoughts. Likewise, so are different approaches to psychology such as psychotherapy.
Meditation is likewise the practice of controlling thought and also of being able to distance yourself from your thoughts.
There are various ways you can directly and indirectly impact on your emotions too. One example is ‘priming’ which basically involves watching films, listening to stories or engaging in activities you know will stimulate certain emotions just before you try and use them. Another is to use power poses or facial feedback to try and trick your body into acting the emotion you want to feel.