Culture modulates implicit ownership-induced self-bias in memory

Samuel Sparks*, Sheila J. Cunningham, Ada Kritikos

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Citations (Scopus)
    498 Downloads (Pure)


    The relation of incoming stimuli to the self implicitly determines the allocation of cognitive resources. Cultural variations in the self-concept shape cognition, but the extent is unclear because the majority of studies sample only Western participants. We report cultural differences (Asian versus Western) in ownership-induced self-bias in recognition memory for objects. In two experiments, participants allocated a series of images depicting household objects to self-owned or other-owned virtual baskets based on colour cues before completing a surprise recognition memory test for the objects. The ‘other’ was either a stranger or a close other. In both experiments, Western participants showed greater recognition memory accuracy for self-owned compared with other-owned objects, consistent with an independent self-construal. In Experiment 1, which required minimal attention to the owned objects, Asian participants showed no such ownership-related bias in recognition accuracy. In Experiment 2, which required attention to owned objects to move them along the screen, Asian participants again showed no overall memory advantage for self-owned items and actually exhibited higher recognition accuracy for mother-owned than self-owned objects, reversing the pattern observed for Westerners. This is consistent with an interdependent self-construal which is sensitive to the particular relationship between the self and other. Overall, our results suggest that the self acts as an organising principle for allocating cognitive resources, but that the way it is constructed depends upon cultural experience. Additionally, the manifestation of these cultural differences in self-representation depends on the allocation of attentional resources to self- and other-associated stimuli.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)89-98
    Number of pages10
    Early online date7 May 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


    • Self
    • Cross cultural differences
    • Implicit memory
    • Individual differences
    • Memory
    • Self reference effect


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