Merely presenting one’s own name along with target items is insufficient to produce a memory advantage for the items: A critical role of relational processing

  • Kyungmi KimEmail author
  • Jenne D. Johnson
  • Danielle J. Rothschild
  • Marcia K. Johnson
Brief Report


Using the self as a reference point at encoding produces a memory advantage over other types of encoding activities. Even simply co-presenting a target item with self-relevant versus other-relevant information can produce an “incidental” self-memory advantage in the absence of any explicit task demand to evaluate the item’s self-relevancy. In the present study, we asked whether an incidental self-memory advantage results from (a) the mere co-presentation of a target item with self-relevant information at encoding or (b) relational processing between a target item and self-relevant information at encoding. During incidental encoding, words were presented in two different colors either above or below a name (the participant’s own or another person’s). Participants judged either the location of each word in relation to the name (“Is the word above or below the name?”) or the color of each word to which the name had no relevance (“Is the word in red or green?”). In a subsequent memory test, we found a self-memory advantage for both items and their associated source features in the location judgment task but not in the color judgment task. Our findings show that a memory advantage for a target item presented with self-relevant versus other-relevant information is more likely when a task agenda places, via relational processing demands, the self-relevant/other-relevant information in the focus of attention along with the target item. Potential processes that mediate this attention-dependent effect are discussed.


Self-reference effect Relational encoding Attention Self-related processing Self 


Author Note

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Grant R37AG009253 and a Grant in Support of Scholarship (GISOS) from Wesleyan University.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyungmi Kim
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jenne D. Johnson
    • 1
  • Danielle J. Rothschild
    • 1
  • Marcia K. Johnson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWesleyan UniversityMiddletownUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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