Self-relevance and the activation of attentional networks

Saga Svensson* (Corresponding Author), Marius Golubickis, Sam Johnson, Johanna Katariina Falben, Colin Macrae

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Recent theoretical accounts maintain that core components of attentional functioning are preferentially tuned to self-relevant information. Evidence in support of this viewpoint is equivocal, however, with research overly reliant on personally significant (i.e., familiar) stimulus inputs (e.g., faces, forenames) and a diverse range of methodologies. Addressing these limitations, here we utilized arbitrary items (i.e., geometric shapes) and administered the Attention Network Test (ANT) to establish the extent to which self-relevance (vs. friend-relevance) moderates the three subsystems of attentional functioning — alerting, orienting, and executive control. The results revealed that only executive control was sensitive to the meaning of the stimuli, such that conflict resolution was enhanced following the presentation of self-associated compared to friend-associated shapes (i.e., cues). Probing the origin of this effect, a further computational analysis (i.e., Shrinking Spotlight Diffusion Model analysis) indicated that self-relevance facilitated the narrowing of visual attention. These findings highlight when and how the personal significance of otherwise trivial material modulates attentional processing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Early online date27 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jun 2022


  • self-prioritization
  • Attentional Network Test
  • executive control
  • conflict resolution
  • spotlight


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