Is self always prioritised? Attenuating the ownership self-reference effect in memory

T. R. Clarkson*, S. J. Cunningham, C. Haslam, A. Kritikos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study demonstrates the abolishment of the Ownership Self Reference Effect (OSRE) when elaborate details of a distant other-referent are provided. In a 2 (High versus Low information) × 2 (Self versus Other) experimental design, we tested the capacity for the SRE to be modulated with social saliency. Using a well-established ownership paradigm (Collard et al., 2020; Cunningham et al., 2008; Sparks et al., 2016), when the other was made socially salient (i.e. details and characteristics about the other were provided to the participant prior to encoding), no SRE emerged, such that self-owned and other-owned items were recalled with comparable accuracy. In contrast, when the other was not salient (i.e., no details about them were provided), participants accurately recalled a higher proportion of self-owned items, demonstrating a typical SRE in source memory. The degree of self- or other- referencing was not related to measured variables of closeness, similarity or shared traits with the other. Although the SRE is an established and robust effect, the findings of the current study illustrate critical circumstances in which the self is no longer prioritised above the other. In line with our predictions, we suggest that the self has automatic attributed social salience (e.g. through ownership) and that enhancing social salience by elaborating details of the other, prioritisation can expand to encapsulate an other beyond the self and influence incidental memory. [Abstract copyright: Crown Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.]
Original languageEnglish
Article number103420
Number of pages11
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date20 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • Self
  • Salience
  • Memory
  • Ownership
  • Self-reference effect


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