Recent research has suggested that self-relevance automatically enhances stimulus processing (i.e., the self-prioritization effect). Notably, information associated with one’s self elicits faster responses than comparable material associated with other targets (e.g., friend, stranger). Challenging the assertion that self-prioritization is an obligatory process, here we hypothesized that self-relevance only facilitates performance when task sets draw attention to previously formed target-object associations. The results of two experiments were consistent with this viewpoint. Compared with arbitrary objects owned by a friend, those owned by the self were classified more rapidly when participants were required to report either the owner or identity of the items (i.e., semantic task set). In contrast, self-relevance failed to facilitate performance when participants judged the orientation of the stimuli (i.e., perceptual task set). These findings demonstrate the conditional automaticity of self-prioritization during stimulus processing.
- task sets
- social salience