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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Data and materials can be freely accessed under the following link: https://osf.io/35wp9.
Alexopoulos, T., Muller, D., Ric, F., & Marendaz, C. (2012). I, me, mine: Automatic attentional capture by self-related stimuli. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 770–779. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.1882
Caughey, S., Falbén, J. K., Tsamadi, D., Persson, L. M., Golubickis, M., & Macrae, C. N. (2021). Self-prioritization during stimulus processing is not obligatory. Psychological Research Psychologische Forschung, 85(2), 503–508.
Chen, A., Weng, X., Yuan, J., Lei, X., Qiu, J., Yao, D., & Li, H. (2008). The temporal features of self-referential processing evoked by Chinese handwriting. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(5), 816–827. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn.2008.20505
Constable, M. D., Kritikos, A., & Bayliss, A. P. (2011). Grasping the concept of personal property. Cognition, 119(3), 430–437. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2011.02.007
Constable, M. D., Welsh, T., Pratt, J., & Huffman, G. (2019a). I before U: Temporal order judgements reveal bias for self-owned objects. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(3), 589–598.
Constable, M. D., Elekes, F., Sebanz, N., & Knoblich, G. (2019b). Relevant for us? We-prioritization in cognitive processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45(12), 1549.
Constable, M. D., Rajsic, J., Welsh, T. N., & Pratt, J. (2019c). It is not in the details: Self-related shapes are rapidly classified but their features are not better remembered. Memory & Cognition, 47(6), 1145–1157.
Constable, M. D., Becker, M. L., Oh, Y.-I., & Knoblich, G. (2021). Affective compatibility with the self modulates the self-prioritisation effect. Cognition and Emotion, 35(2), 291–304.
Conway, M. A. (2005). Memory and the self. Journal of Memory and Language, 53(4), 594–628. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2005.08.005
Cunningham, S. J., Brebner, J. L., Quinn, F., & Turk, D. J. (2014). The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. Child Development, 85(2), 808–823. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12144
Dalmaso, M., Castelli, L., & Galfano, G. (2019). Self-related shapes can hold the eyes. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(9), 2249–2260.
Desebrock, C., Sui, J., & Spence, C. (2018). Self-reference in action: Arm-movement responses are enhanced in perceptual matching. Acta Psychologica, 190, 258–266.
Enock, F., Sui, J., Hewstone, M., & Humphreys, G. W. (2018). Self and team prioritisation effects in perceptual matching: Evidence for a shared representation. Acta Psychologica, 182, 107–118.
Falbén, J. K., Golubickis, M., Balseryte, R., Persson, L. M., Tsamadi, D., Caughey, S., & Neil Macrae, C. (2019). How prioritized is self-prioritization during stimulus processing? Visual Cognition, 27(1), 46–51.
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A. G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G*Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods, 39(2), 175–191.
Frings, C., & Wentura, D. (2014). Self-priorization processes in action and perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(5), 1737–1740. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037376
Golubickis, M., Falbén, J. K., Ho, N. S., Sui, J., Cunningham, W. A., & Macrae, C. N. (2020). Parts of me: Identity-relevance moderates self-prioritization. Consciousness and Cognition, 77, 102848. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2019.102848
Gutchess, A. H., Sokal, R., Coleman, J. A., Gotthilf, G., Grewal, L., & Rosa, N. (2015). Age differences in self-referencing: Evidence for common and distinct encoding strategies. Brain Research, 1612, 118–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2014.08.033
Harris, C. R., Pashler, H. E., & Coburn, N. (2004). Moray revisited: High-priority affective stimuli and visual search. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. A, Human Experimental Psychology, 57(1), 1–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/02724980343000107
Ivaz, L., Costa, A., & Duñabeitia, J. A. (2016). The emotional impact of being myself: Emotions and foreign-language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(3), 489.
Ivaz, L., Griffin, K. L., & Duñabeitia, J. A. (2019). Self-bias and the emotionality of foreign languages. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747021818781017
James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: H. Holt and company.
Janczyk, M., Humphreys, G. W., & Sui, J. (2019). The central locus of self-prioritisation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(5), 1068–1083.
Keyes, H., & Dlugokencka, A. (2014). Do I have my attention? Speed of processing advantages for the self-face are not driven by automatic attention capture. PLoS ONE, 9(10), e110792. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0110792
Kim, K., & Johnson, M. K. (2014). Extended self: Spontaneous activation of medial prefrontal cortex by objects that are “mine.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(7), 1006–1012. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nst082
Klein, S. B. (2012). Self, memory, and the self-reference effect: An examination of conceptual and methodological issues. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16(3), 283–300. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868311434214
Klein, S. B., Loftus, J., Trafton, J. G., & Fuhrman, R. W. (1992). Use of exemplars and abstractions in trait judgments: A model of trait knowledge about the self and others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(5), 739–753. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.529
Klein, S. B., Babey, S. H., & Sherman, J. W. (1997). The functional independence of trait and behavioral self-knowledge: Methodological considerations and new empirical findings. Social Cognition, 15(3), 183–203. https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.19184.108.40.206
Knoblich, G., & Prinz, W. (2001). Recognition of self-generated actions from kinematic displays of drawing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(2), 456–465.
Ma, Y., & Han, S. (2010). Why we respond faster to the self than to others? An implicit positive association theory of self-advantage during implicit face recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36(3), 619–633. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0015797
Macrae, C. N., Visokomogilski, A., Golubickis, M., Cunningham, W. A., & Sahraie, A. (2017). Self-relevance prioritizes access to visual awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43(3), 438–443. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000361
Mattan, B., Quinn, K. A., Apperly, I. A., Sui, J., & Rotshtein, P. (2015). Is it always me first? Effects of self-tagging on third-person perspective-taking. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41(4), 1100–1117. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000078
Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self and society. University of Chicago Press.
Miyakoshi, M., Nomura, M., & Ohira, H. (2007). An ERP study on self-relevant object recognition. Brain and Cognition, 63(2), 182–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2006.12.001
Miyakoshi, M., Kanayama, N., Iidaka, T., & Ohira, H. (2010). EEG evidence of face-specific visual self-representation. NeuroImage, 50(4), 1666–1675. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.01.030
Moradi, Z., Sui, J., Hewstone, M., & Humphreys, G. W. (2015). In-group modulation of perceptual matching. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22(5), 1255–1277. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-014-0798-8
Moray, N. (1959). Attention in dichotic-listening: Affective cues and the influence of instructions. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 11(1), 56–60. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470215908416289
Noel, J.-P., Blanke, O., Serino, A., & Salomon, R. (2017). Interplay between narrative and bodily self in access to consciousness: No difference between self-and non-self attributes. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 72.
Payne, S., Tsakiris, M., & Maister, L. (2017). Can the self become another? Investigating the effects of self-association with a new facial identity. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(6), 1085–1097. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2015.1137329
Reuther, J., & Chakravarthi, R. (2017). Does self-prioritization affect perceptual processes? Visual Cognition, 25(1–3), 381–398.
Roepstorff, A., & Frith, C. (2004). What’s at the top in the top-down control of action? Script-sharing and ‘top-top’control of action in cognitive experiments. Psychological Research Psychologische Forschung, 68(2), 189–198.
Rogers, T. B., Kuiper, N. A., & Kirker, W. S. (1977). Self-reference and the encoding of personal information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(9), 677–688.
Schafer, S., Wentura, D., & Frings, C. (2015). Self-prioritization beyond perception. Experimental Psychology, 62(6), 415–425. https://doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000307
Schafer, S., Frings, C., & Wentura, D. (2016a). About the composition of self-relevance: Conjunctions not features are bound to the self. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23(3), 887–892. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-015-0953-x
Schafer, S., Wesslein, A. K., Spence, C., Wentura, D., & Frings, C. (2016b). Self-prioritization in vision, audition, and touch. Experimental Brain Research, 234(8), 2141–2150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4616-6
Sel, A., Sui, J., Shepherd, J., & Humphreys, G. (2019). Self-association and attentional processing regarding perceptually salient items. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 10(4), 735–746. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-018-0430-3
Siebold, A., Weaver, M. D., Donk, M., & van Zoest, W. (2015). Social salience does not transfer to oculomotor visual search. Visual Cognition, 23(8), 989–1019.
Stein, T., Siebold, A., & van Zoest, W. (2016). Testing the idea of privileged awareness of self-relevant information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42(3), 303–307. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000197
Stolte, M., Humphreys, G., Yankouskaya, A., & Sui, J. (2017). Dissociating biases towards the self and positive emotion. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(6), 1011–1022.
Sui, J., & Gu, X. (2017). Self as object: Emerging trends in self research. Trends in Neurosciences, 40(11), 643–653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2017.09.002
Sui, J., & Han, S. (2007). Self-construal priming modulates neural substrates of self-awareness. Psychological Science, 18(10), 861–866. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01992.x
Sui, J., & Humphreys, G. W. (2015). The integrative self: How self-reference integrates perception and memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(12), 719–728. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.08.015
Sui, J., Zhu, Y., & Han, S. (2006). Self-face recognition in attended and unattended conditions: An event-related brain potential study. NeuroReport, 17(4), 423–427. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.wnr.0000203357.65190.61
Sui, J., Liu, C. H., Wang, L., & Han, S. (2009). Attentional orientation induced by temporarily established self-referential cues. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(5), 844–849. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470210802559393
Sui, J., He, X., & Humphreys, G. W. (2012). Perceptual effects of social salience: Evidence from self-prioritization effects on perceptual matching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 38(5), 1105–1117. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029792
Sui, J., Rotshtein, P., & Humphreys, G. W. (2013). Coupling social attention to the self forms a network for personal significance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(19), 7607–7612. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1221862110
Sui, J., Sun, Y., Peng, K., & Humphreys, G. W. (2014). The automatic and the expected self: Separating self-and familiarity biases effects by manipulating stimulus probability. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 76(4), 1176–1184.
Symons, C. S., & Johnson, B. T. (1997). The self-reference effect in memory: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 121(3), 371–394.
Tacikowski, P., & Nowicka, A. (2010). Allocation of attention to self-name and self-face: An ERP study. Biological Psychology, 84(2), 318–324. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.03.009
Tacikowski, P., Jednorog, K., Marchewka, A., & Nowicka, A. (2011). How multiple repetitions influence the processing of self-, famous and unknown names and faces: An ERP study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 79(2), 219–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2010.10.010
Wade, G. L., & Vickery, T. J. (2017). Self-relevance effects and label choice: Strong variations in label-matching performance due to non-self-relevant factors. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 79(5), 1524–1534.
Wade, G. L., & Vickery, T. J. (2018). Target self-relevance speeds visual search responses but does not improve search efficiency. Visual Cognition, 26(8), 563–582.
Wang, H., Humphreys, G., & Sui, J. (2016). Expanding and retracting from the self: Gains and costs in switching self-associations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42(2), 247–256. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000125
Wojcik, M. J., Nowicka, M. M., Kotlewska, I., & Nowicka, A. (2017). Self-face captures, holds, and biases attention. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 2371. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02371
Wood, N. L., & Cowan, N. (1995). The cocktail party phenomenon revisited: attention and memory in the classic selective listening procedure of Cherry (1953). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 124(3), 243–262.
Woźniak, M., & Hohwy, J. (2020). Stranger to my face: Top-down and bottom-up effects underlying prioritization of images of one’s face. PLoS ONE, 15(7), e0235627. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235627
Woźniak, M., & Knoblich, G. (2019). Self-prioritization of fully unfamiliar stimuli. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747021819832981
Woźniak, M., Kourtis, D., & Knoblich, G. (2018). Prioritization of arbitrary faces associated to self: An EEG study. PLoS ONE, 13(1), e0190679. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190679
Woźniak, M. (2019). How to grow a self: development of the self in a Bayesian brain. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/6e3ad
Zhao, S., Uono, S., Yoshimura, S., & Toichi, M. (2015). Self make-up: The influence of self-referential processing on attention orienting. Scientific Reports, 5, 14169.
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).
Conflict of interest
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.
Informed consent in the written form was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
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