Self-referential processing is distinct from semantic elaboration: Evidence from long-term memory effects in a patient with amnesia and semantic impairments

Jie Sui*, Glyn W. Humphreys*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


We report data demonstrating that self-referential encoding facilitates memory performance in the absence of effects of semantic elaboration in a severely amnesic patient also suffering semantic problems. In Part 1, the patient, GA, was trained to associate items with the self or a familiar other during the encoding phase of a memory task (self-ownership decisions in Experiment 1 and self-evaluation decisions in Experiment 2). Tests of memory showed a consistent self-reference advantage, relative to a condition where the reference was another person in both experiments. The pattern of the self-reference advantage was similar to that in healthy controls. In Part 2 we demonstrate that GA showed minimal effects of semantic elaboration on memory for items he semantically classified, compared with items subject to physical size decisions; in contrast, healthy controls demonstrated enhanced memory performance after semantic relative to physical encoding. The results indicate that self-referential encoding, not semantic elaboration, improves memory in amnesia. Self-referential processing may provide a unique scaffold to help improve learning in amnesic cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2663-2673
Number of pages11
Issue number13
Early online date17 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013



  • Self-referential processing
  • Semantic elaboration
  • Long-term memory
  • Ownership
  • Evaluation

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