Processing information in the context of personal survival scenarios elicits a memory advantage, relative to other rich encoding conditions such as self-referencing. However, previous research is unable to distinguish between the influence of survival and self-reference because personal survival is a self-referent encoding context. To resolve this issue, participants in the current study processed items in the context of their own survival and a familiar other person’s survival, as well as in a semantic context. Recognition memory for the items revealed that personal survival elicited a memory advantage relative to semantic encoding, whereas other-survival did not. These findings reinforce suggestions that the survival effect is closely tied with self-referential encoding, ensuring that fitness information of potential importance to self is successfully retained in memory.
Cunningham, S. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Gill, L., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Survival of the selfish: contrasting self-referential and survival-based encoding. Consciousness and Cognition, 22(1), 237-244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2012.12.005