Development of evaluative and incidental self-reference effects in childhood

Jacqui Hutchison*, Josephine Ross, Sheila J. Cunningham

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    58 Downloads (Pure)


    The self-reference effect (SRE) is the memory enhancement associated with information linked to self. Unlike 4- to 6-year-olds, adults show stronger memory enhancement when self-processing is “evaluative” (eSRE) than when self-processing is “incidental” (iSRE). Here, the developmental change from shallow to rich self-processing was programmatically explored. In Study 1, 6- to 11-year-olds (N = 189) showed an eSRE = iSRE pattern. However, eSRE magnitude was limited by ceiling effects. Avoiding ceiling effects, Study 2 showed a developmentally stable eSRE > iSRE pattern in 8- to 11-year-olds (N = 96; ηp2 = .06). Study 3 used a different paradigm to confirm that 8- to 11-year-olds are capable of evaluative encoding even without concrete self stimuli. However, the evaluative boost for children was smaller than that for adults (N = 104; ηp2 = .06). Results are discussed with reference to the developing self and its capacity to support memory.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number105197
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
    Early online date3 Jun 2021
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


    • Self
    • Memory
    • Development
    • Self-reference effect
    • eSRE
    • iSRE


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