Recent research has revealed that self-referential processing enhances perceptual judgments — the so-called self-prioritization effect. The extent and origin of this effect remains unknown, however. Noting the multifaceted nature of the self, here we hypothesized that temporal influences on self-construal (i.e., past/future-self continuity) may serve as an important determinant of stimulus prioritization. Specifically, as representations of the self increase in abstraction as a function of temporal distance (i.e., distance from now), self-prioritization may only emerge when stimuli are associated with the current self. The results of three experiments supported this prediction. Self-relevance only enhanced performance in a standard perceptual-matching task when stimuli (i.e., geometric shapes) were connected with the current self; representations of the self in the future (Expts. 1 & 2) and past (Expt. 3) failed to facilitate decision making. To identify the processes underlying task performance, data were interrogated using a hierarchical drift diffusion model (HDDM) approach. Results of these analyses revealed that self-prioritization was underpinned by a stimulus bias (i.e., rate of information uptake). Collectively, these findings elucidate when and how self-relevance influences decisional processing.
Bibliographical noteOpen Access via Springer Compact Agreement
- social cognition
- temporal construal
- drift diffusion model