Self-relevance and the activation of attentional networks

Saga Svensson* (Corresponding Author), Marius Golubickis, Sam Johnson, Johanna Katariina Falben, Colin Macrae

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Recent theoretical accounts maintain that core components of attentional functioning are preferentially tuned to self-relevant information. Evidence in support of this viewpoint is equivocal, however, with research overly reliant on personally significant (i.e., familiar) stimulus inputs (e.g., faces, forenames) and a diverse range of methodologies. Addressing these limitations, here we utilized arbitrary items (i.e., geometric shapes) and administered the Attention Network Test (ANT) to establish the extent to which self-relevance (vs. friend-relevance) moderates the three subsystems of attentional functioning — alerting, orienting, and executive control. The results revealed that only executive control was sensitive to the meaning of the stimuli, such that conflict resolution was enhanced following the presentation of self-associated compared to friend-associated shapes (i.e., cues). Probing the origin of this effect, a further computational analysis (i.e., Shrinking Spotlight Diffusion Model analysis) indicated that self-relevance facilitated the narrowing of visual attention. These findings highlight when and how the personal significance of otherwise trivial material modulates attentional processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120–1130
Number of pages11
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Open Access via Sage R&P agreement


  • self-prioritization
  • Attentional Network Test
  • executive control
  • conflict resolution
  • spotlight


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