The tendency to prioritize information related to the self (or socially salient information) has been established for several cognitive tasks. However, earlier studies on this question suffered from confounds such as familiarity and intimacy. Recently, a series of studies overcame this limitation using newly learnt associations between geometric shapes and identities. Results from these studies have been argued to show that self-prioritization affects perceptual processing. In two studies, we replicated and extended the original shape-identity association paradigm to test an alternative hypothesis that self-prioritization does not affect perceptual processes but arises from potential memory differences introduced during the formation of associations. We found that induced memory differences lead to response patterns similar to those that have been attributed to changes in the perceptual domain. However, even extended learning undertaken to equate memory for various identity-based associations did not eliminate the effects of self-prioritization, leaving the question open if the differences are cognitive or perceptual in nature. The current evidence can be explained both in terms of memory differences and perceptual effects. Hence, we strongly recommend that the existence of perceptual effects of self-prioritization should be investigated directly rather than through changes in reaction times in match–non-match tasks.
Bibliographical noteThis study is based on a proposal pre-submitted to Visual Cognition, where the study design and analysis plan was registered before data collection. We thank Margaret Jackson for pointers
on the memory literature and Sandie Cleland for providing a list of non-words. Further, we thank Aleksandar Visokomogilski for his advice on HDDM, as well as Tanya Bhayani and Malwina Filipczuk for their help with data collection.
- associative learning