Exploring the self-reference effect and its educational applications in typically developing children and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters by Research


Introduction: It has been discovered that items, events, or actions which are encoded self-referentially result in a memory advantage. This has been termed the ‘self-reference effect’. There is a lack of research concerning self-referential processes within typically developing children, and children diagnosed with ADHD as well as the educational applications of the self-reference effect.

Objectives: Experiment 1 measured evaluative and physical self-referential processes within typically developing children and the efficacy of self-referencing methods within an educational task. Experiment 2 replicated the study and compared performance between children with ADHD and a matched control sample.

Results: In Experiment 1, children displayed a source memory advantage for self-related items, and better recall for self-performed actions. Within the educational task, there was a ceiling effect and therefore no attention and memory advantage was observed following self- encoding. Within Experiment 2, typically-developing and ADHD groups showed overall better memory for actions performed by the self. Children with ADHD showed no difference in self and other item memory in the evaluative self-referencing task. Among both groups within the educational task, a ceiling effect was observed.

Conclusion: The study is the first to explore and provide potential evidence of physical self-referential biases within ADHD children, adding to our basic understanding of the self-construct within the clinical group. Children with ADHD showed a similar physical but not cognitive self-reference effect as typically developing children, suggesting that reduced attentional capacity may impact on the effects of the self. Implications and ideas for further research are discussed.
Date of AwardOct 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SponsorsLeverhulme Trust
SupervisorSheila Cunningham (Supervisor) & Josephine Ross (Supervisor)


  • Self
  • Self-referencing
  • ADHD
  • Education
  • Attention
  • Memory

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