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Anna Hudson, McLennon Wilson, Emma Green, Roxane Itier, Henderson Henderson; The Impact of Self-Relevance and Valence on Word Processing: an ERP study. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):971. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.971.
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Social-cognition implicates a unique processing mechanism for self-relevant information, which has life-long adaptive outcomes. The well-established self-referential encoding task (SRET) specifically probes this self-referential bias, as well as the equally adaptive positivity bias. These two biases have primarily been examined in isolation, separately demonstrating improved endorsement and memory for positive (vs. negative), and self-relevant (vs. other-relevant) trait adjectives. The goal of the current study was to extend this research by simultaneously examining the effect of valence and self-relevance on behavioral indices of memory, and Event Related Potential (ERP) indices of attention and emotion processing at encoding. Using a within-subjects block design, participants viewed and endorsed (or not) positive and negative trait adjectives in terms of themselves (self-relevant block) or Harry Potter (other-relevant block). ERPs were time-locked to word onset and analyses focused on both the early Late Positive Potential (eLPP, 400-600 ms) reflecting sustained attention, and its late counterpart (lLLP, 600-1200ms) reflecting emotional processing. Following the SRET, participants completed unexpected recall and recognition tasks. Consistent with past studies, participants displayed a positivity bias, endorsing and remembering more positive (vs. negative) words. Additionally, participants displayed a self-referential bias, endorsing and remembering more self-relevant (vs. other-relevant) words. The ERP findings paralleled this behaviour, with larger amplitude for self- (vs. other) relevant items from 400-800ms, spanning the eLPP and part of the lLPP. Valence affected only the lLPP with an increased amplitude for positive (vs. negative) trait-adjectives from 600-1000ms. These results suggest the self-referencing and positivity biases might be discrete cognitive processes that do not interact. Self-referential processing seems to start earlier than valence processing, although both overlap around 600-800ms. Additionally, the positivity bias does not appear specific to self-relevant processing, but applies generally across social processing conditions. It appears these two biases have uniquely adaptive roles within social cognition.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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