We conducted three experiments to test the effect of assumed task-relevance of self-association on the self-prioritization effect (SPE). Participants were first performing the standard matching task, and then a pseudo-word matching task, in which familiar labels from the standard task were replaced with pseudo-words. In the pseudo-words task, the association between stimuli and the self was, in fact, task-irrelevant. Learning instructions were varied to make participants believe that the self-association was task-relevant (Experiments 1 and 3) or task-irrelevant (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, we told participants that geometrical shapes represent specific identities (self, friend, none) and pseudo-words’ meanings reflect each of these identities to make participants believe that semantic associations of pseudo-words were task-relevant. In this experiment, a SPE was present in the pseudo-words task. Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1, but participants were told to form association pairs between pseudo-words and shapes, and not pseudo-words and identities. Thus, because the matching task presented only shapes and pseudo-words, participants were led to correctly believe that associations were task-irrelevant. Under these conditions, we did not observe a SPE in the pseudo-words task. Finally, in Experiment 3, participants were told that pseudo-words are “paired with” identities, making their relations with identities weaker than in Experiment 1, but still task-relevant. The SPE in the pseudo-word task reappeared. Together, the results suggest that a SPE can be observed in the absence of any stimuli with established self-associations, but only if self-associations are represented as task-relevant.
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This study was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC grant agreement no 609819, Constructing Social Minds: Coordination, Communication, and Cultural Transmission (SOMICS).
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Mateusz Woźniak declares that he has no conflict of interest. Guenther Knoblich declares that he has no conflict of interest.
All the procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (the Ethical Research Committee of Central European University) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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Woźniak, M., Knoblich, G. Self-prioritization depends on assumed task-relevance of self-association. Psychological Research (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01584-5