More or Less of Me and You: Self-Relevance Augments the Effects of Item Probability on Stimulus Prioritization

Saga Svensson* (Corresponding Author), Marius Golubickis, Hollie Maclean, Johanna K Falben, Linn M. Persson, Dimitra Tsamadi, Siobhan Caughey, Arash Sahraie, C. Neil Macrae

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Self-relevance exerts a powerful influence on information processing. Compared to material associated with other people, personally meaningful stimuli are prioritized during decision-making. Further exploring the character of this effect, here we considered the extent to which stimulus enhancement is impacted by the frequency of self-relevant versus friend-relevant material. In a matching task, participants reported whether shape-label stimulus pairs corresponded to previously learned associations (e.g., triangle = self, square = friend). Crucially however, before the task commenced, stimulus-based expectancies were provided indicating the probability with which both self- and friend-related shapes would be encountered. The results revealed that task performance was impacted by the frequency of stimulus presentation in combination with the personal relevance of the items. When self- and friend-related shapes appeared with equal frequencies, a selfprioritization effect emerged (Expt. 1). Additionally, in both confirmatory (Expt. 2) and disconfirmatory (Expt. 3) task contexts, stimuli that were encountered frequently (vs. infrequently) were prioritized, an effect that was most pronounced for self-relevant (vs. friend-relevant) items. Further computational analyses indicated that, in each of the reported experiments, differences in performance were underpinned by variation in the rate of information uptake, with evidence extracted more rapidly from self-relevant compared to friend-relevant stimuli. These findings advance our understanding of the emergence and origin of stimulus prioritization effects during decisional processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145–1164
Number of pages20
JournalPsychological Research
Early online date29 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • self-bias
  • stimulus prioritization
  • item frequency
  • shape-label matching
  • decisionmaking


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