Frontiers | Breaking the Cybernetic Code: Understanding and Treating the Human Metacognitive Control System to Enhance Mental Health | Psychology – Adrian Wells (2019)

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Frontiers | Breaking the Cybernetic Code: Understanding and Treating the Human Metacognitive Control System to Enhance Mental Health | Psychology

THIS ARTICLE IS PART OF THE RESEARCH TOPICMetacognitive Therapy: Science and Practice of a Paradigm View all 30 Articles https://player.vimeo.com/video/369504878?background=1&autoplay=1&loop=0


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HYPOTHESIS AND THEORY ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 12 December 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02621

Breaking the Cybernetic Code: Understanding and Treating the Human Metacognitive Control System to Enhance Mental Health

Adrian Wells1,2*

  • 1School of Psychological Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • 2Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, United Kingdom

The self-regulatory executive function (S-REF) model explains the role of strategic processes and metacognition in psychological disorder and was a major influence on the development of metacognitive therapy. The model identifies a universal style of perseverative negative processing termed the cognitive attentional syndrome (CAS), comprised of worry, rumination, and threat monitoring in the development of disorder. The CAS is linked to dysfunctional metacognitions that include beliefs and plans for regulating cognition. In this paper, I extend the theoretical foundations necessary to support further research on mechanisms linking metacognition to cognitive regulation and effective treatment. I propose a metacognitive control system (MCS) of the S-REF that can be usefully distinguished from cognition and is comprised of multiple structures, information, and processes. The MCS monitors and controls activity of the cognitive system and regulates the behavior of neural networks whose activities bias the way cognition is experienced. Metacognitive information involved in the regulation of on-line processing includes metacognitive beliefs, metacognitive procedural commands, and more transient cybernetic code. Separation of the cognitive and metacognitive systems and modeling their relationship presents major implications concerning what should be done in therapy and how it should be done. The paper concludes with an in-depth consideration of methods that strengthen the psychological basis of psychotherapy and aid in understanding and applying metacognitive therapy in particular. Finally, limitations of the model and implications for future research on self-awareness, self-regulation, and metacognition are discussed.

Introduction

Throughout the last 25 years, the Self-Regulatory Executive Function (S-REF) model (Wells and Matthews, 19941996) has stimulated a large volume of research on cognitive control processes in psychological disorder and is the grounding of an effective psychological treatment: metacognitive therapy (MCT: Wells, 19952009). In this paper, I consider the central principles of the model in light of recent evidence and expand on the functional components of its metacognitive control system. The aim is to provide a theoretical framework to stimulate and advance future research on varieties of metacognitive information, processes, and structures in psychological disorder, self-awareness, and treatment.

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Frontiers | Breaking the Cybernetic Code: Understanding and Treating the Human Metacognitive Control System to Enhance Mental Health | Psychology