Attention is influenced by information about relationships between ourselves and the objects around us. Self-related objects can either facilitate or disrupt task performance, creating a challenge for identifying the precise nature of the influence of self-relatedness on attention. To address this challenge, we measured different components of attention (alertness and orienting) in the presence of self-related objects using a revised attention network task (ANT). In a self-association task, participants first learned colour–person associations and then carried out a colour–person matching task. This was followed by the ANT, in which these coloured boxes associated with self or friend were displayed as peripheral cues; participants had to judge the direction of an arrow flanked by congruent (low-conflict) or incongruent (high-conflict) distractors presented within one coloured box. The results showed faster and more accurate responses to targets appearing within the self-colour than friend-colour cues in the association task. In the ANT, the analysis of alertness revealed that self-related cues facilitated task performance compared with friend-related cues. The analysis of orienting demonstrated that relative to friend cues, self-cues hampered task performance in invalid trials. Critically, the effects of self-cues on both orienting and alertness were observed only in high conflict situations. These results indicated that self-related objects are powerful cues that enhance attention intensity, which either facilitates task performance when the upcoming target falls within their location or disrupts performance when the target falls outside their location. The data suggest that attentional functions can be tuned by self-saliency in high-demand contexts.
- Task performance