Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-10-15 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2003094117 Marion Rouault, Stephen M. Fleming
Humans create metacognitive beliefs about their performance across many levels of abstraction—from local confidence in individual decisions to global estimates of our skills and abilities. Despite a rich literature on the neural basis of local confidence judgements, how global self-performance estimates (SPEs) are constructed remains unknown. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we scanned human subjects while they performed several short blocks of tasks and reported on which task they think they performed best, providing a behavioral proxy for global SPEs. In a frontoparietal network sensitive to fluctuations in local confidence, we found that activity within ventromedial prefrontal cortex and precuneus was additionally modulated by global SPEs. In contrast, activity in ventral striatum was associated with subjects’ global SPEs irrespective of fluctuations in local confidence, and predicted the extent to which global SPEs tracked objective task difficulty across individuals. Our findings reveal neural representations of global SPEs that go beyond the tracking of local confidence, and lay the groundwork for understanding how a formation of global self-beliefs may go awry in conditions characterized by distorted self-evaluation.