August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Exploring the limits of the "self-relevance" effect on performance
Author Affiliations
  • Gregory Wade
    University of Delaware
  • Timothy Vickery
    University of Delaware
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 92. doi:
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      Gregory Wade, Timothy Vickery; Exploring the limits of the "self-relevance" effect on performance. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):92. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Merely associating a sense of self with a simple geometric shape stimulus is enough to enhance performance in a label-matching paradigm (Sui, He, & Humphreys, 2012), implying prioritized visual processing of self-relevant stimuli. For instance, labeling a square as "self" and a circle as "other" yields speeded performance when verifying square-self label matches compared with circle-other label matches. In three experiments, we sought to replicate this finding, explore whether it generalizes to other methods of assigning self-relevance, and examine the possibility relative salience of the "self" label underlies the effect. We employed the label-matching task and varied the labels across experiments. After a label-training stage, participants saw shapes and labels and responded "match" or "mismatch". Experiment 1 replicated previous results, showing speeded responses to "self" matches vs. "friend" and "other" matches. In Experiment 2, we asked whether ownership labels are sufficient to evoke this effect, as ownership has been shown to provide similar benefits to performance in memory tasks (Turk, van Bussel, Waiter, & Macrae, 2011). We labeled shapes as "mine", "his", and "theirs". Matches to "mine" were more quickly identified than matches to "his" or "theirs", implying that mere ownership is sufficient to evoke this effect. Finally, in Experiment 3 we asked whether increased salience of a non-self label could produce a similar effect. We induced one shape association with "self," another with "other," and another with a "stranger" who was described as "dangerous," as a means of enhancing the salience of this label through threat. The self-associated matches were still identified with greater speed than the even the "dangerous stranger," and there was no significant advantage of the stranger over the other condition. These findings replicate and extend the generality of the self-relevance effect and provide evidence that mere salience enhancement may be insufficient to explain these effects.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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