Abstract Recent advances in the field of metacognition have shown that human participants are introspectively aware of many different cognitive states, such as confidence in a decision. Here we set out to expand the range of experimental introspection by asking whether participants could access, through pure mental monitoring, the nature of the cognitive processes that underlie two visual search tasks: an effortless “pop-out” search, and a difficult, effortful, conjunction search. To this aim, in addition to traditional first order performance measures, we instructed participants to give, on a trial-by-trial basis, an estimate of the number of items scanned before a decision was reached. By controlling response times and eye movements, we assessed the contribution of self-observation of behavior in these subjective estimates. Results showed that introspection is a flexible mechanism and that pure mental monitoring of cognitive processes is possible in elementary tasks.