The Power of the Self: Anchoring Information Processing Across Contexts

Meike Scheller* (Corresponding Author), Jie Sui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


A stable self-representation has an intrinsically beneficial connotation for information processing: it allows the individual to flexibly adapt to different contexts, while prioritizing information that pertains to the own immediate survival. Indeed, many studies have shown how linking arbitrary information to physical or psychological aspects of the self leads to pervasive effects on our decision-making and even our perception. However, the evidence we have gained so far stems from isolated aspects of the self, and varying measures across studies and different levels of processing make results difficult to compare. The present study demonstrates that associating arbitrary information with the self rapidly leads to faster and more efficient processing of information, with stable performance benefits across different tasks (matching and categorization task) and stimulus domains. Focussing on specific processing levels, the findings firstly provide evidence regarding the involvement of self-relatedness in perception. Here, contrast processing interacted with self-relatedness, but only when complex stimuli were used. Secondly, they show that self-prioritization is flexible to decisional modulations, with processing benefits being adjusted to different social contexts. Thirdly, the present data provides evidence that performance benefits towards newly self-associated, abstract information are equivalent to those resulting from long-term established self-knowledge with personally owned objects. The results highlight mechanistic differences between the prioritization of information linked to the self and information linked to close others. Overall, the present findings suggest that the self acts as a stable anchor in information processing, allowing us to filter information by immediate relevance in order to facilitate optimal behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1021
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number9
Early online date7 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2019-010)

Data Availability Statement

Supplemental materials:

The study has been preregistered on the Open Science Framework: https:// Stimuli and further materials necessary to run the experiment,
as well as data and analysis scripts are available through the Open Science
Framework project page:


  • self-prioritization
  • perception
  • decision-making
  • integration
  • stability
  • flexibility


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