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Information that is relevant to oneself tends to be remembered more than information that relates to other people, but the role of attention in eliciting this "self-reference effect" is unclear. In the present study, we assessed the importance of attention in self-referential encoding using an ownership paradigm, which required participants to encode items under conditions of imagined ownership by themselves or by another person. Previous work has established that this paradigm elicits a robust self-reference effect, with more "self-owned" items being remembered than "other-owned" items. Access to attentional resources was manipulated using divided-attention tasks at encoding. A significant self-reference effect emerged under full-attention conditions and was related to an increase in episodic recollection for self-owned items, but dividing attention eliminated this memory advantage. These findings are discussed in relation to the nature of self-referential cognition and the importance of attentional resources at encoding in the manifestation of the self-reference effect in memory.


David J Turk, Mirjam Brady-van den Bos, Philip Collard, Karri Gillespie-Smith, Martin A Conway, Sheila J Cunningham. Divided attention selectively impairs memory for self-relevant information. Memory & cognition. 2013 May;41(4):503-10

PMID: 23263878

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