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


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 statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jun 2021

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