Applying Self-Processing Biases in Education: Improving Learning Through Ownership

Sheila J. Cunningham, Lynda Scott, Jacqui Hutchison, Josephine Ross, Douglas Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Accepting ownership of an item is an effective way of associating it with self, evoking self-processing biases that enhance memory. This memory advantage occurs even in ownership games, where items are arbitrarily divided between participants to temporarily ‘own’. The current study tested the educational applications of ownership games across two experiments. In Experiment 1, 7 to 9-year-old children were asked to choose three novel, labelled shapes from an array of nine. The experimenter chose three shapes and three remained ‘un-owned’. A subsequent free-recall test showed that children reliably learned more self-owned than other-owned or un-owned shapes. Experiment 2 replicated this finding for shapes that were assigned to owners rather than chosen, and showed that ownership enhanced memory more effectively than a control game with no ownership manipulation. Together, these experiments show that ownership games can evoke self-processing biases in children’s memory, enhancing learning. Implications for education strategies are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-351
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018

Bibliographical note

This project was supported by a Research Project Grant from the Leverhulme Trust (2014-310) awarded to S. Cunningham and J. Ross. We thank Erin Taylor-Bennet for her help with Experiment 2 data collection. We also thank Andrew Butler and three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments on the manuscript.


  • self
  • ownership
  • choice
  • learning
  • memory
  • education


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