Assistant Professor of Psychology Kyungmi Kim, Youngbin (Amabel) Jeon ’19, Alexis Banquer ’20, and Danielle Rothschild ’19 are coauthors of a study published in the October 2018 volume of Consciousness and Cognition.
In the paper, “Conscious awareness of self-relevant information is necessary for an incidental self-memory advantage,” Kim and her students examine the relative contributions of conscious vs. unconscious self-processing to the incidental self-reference effect.
The incidental self-reference effect refers to a memory advantage for items simultaneously presented with self-relevant information (e.g., one’s own name) over those presented with other relevant information (e.g., someone else’s name) when the task at hand bears no relevance to the self (e.g., a simple location judgment task; “Does each item appear above or below the name in the middle?”).
In the study, Kim and her students compared memory for target items that were presented with one’s own name vs. another person’s name when the names were consciously identifiable vs. unidentifiable. They found the incidental self-reference effect when the names were consciously identifiable but not when they were consciously unidentifiable.
“These findings show that conscious awareness of self-cues in the environment is necessary for an incidental self-memory advantage to emerge, suggesting a boundary condition under which the self influences memory,” Kim explained.