Exploring the effects of ownership and choice on self-memory biases

Sheila J. Cunningham*, Mirjam Brady-Van den Bos, David J. Turk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Objects encoded in the context of temporary ownership by self enjoy a memorial advantage over objects owned by other people. This memory effect has been linked to self-referential encoding processes. The current inquiry explored the extent to which the effects of ownership are influenced by the degree of personal choice involved in assigning ownership. In three experiments pairs of participants chose objects to keep for ownership by self, and rejected objects that were given to the other participant to own. Recognition memory for the objects was then assessed. Experiment 1 showed that participants recognised more items encoded as "self-owned" than "other-owned", but only when they had been chosen by self. Experiment 2 replicated this pattern when participants' sense of choice was illusory. A source memory test in Experiment 3 showed that self-chosen items were most likely to be correctly attributed to ownership by self. These findings are discussed with reference to the link between owned objects and the self, and the routes through which self-referential operations can impact on cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-461
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Early online date25 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Self
  • Ownership
  • Choice
  • Recognition memory
  • Source memory


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