The relationship between self, value-based reward, and emotion prioritisation effects

Alla Yankouskaya* (Corresponding Author), Gemma Lovett, Jie Sui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


People show systematic biases in perception, memory, attention, and decision-making to prioritise information related to self, reward, and positive emotion. A long-standing set of experimental findings points towards putative common properties of these effects. However, the relationship between them remains largely unknown. Here, we addressed this question by assessing and linking these prioritisation effects generated by a common associative matching procedure in three experiments. Self, reward, and positive emotion prioritisation effects were assessed using cluster and shift function analyses to explore and test associations between these effects across individuals. Cluster analysis revealed two distinct patterns of the relationship between the biases. Individuals with faster responses showed a smaller reward and linear positive association between reward and emotion biases. Individuals with slower responses demonstrated a large reward and no association between reward and emotion biases. No evidence of the relationship between self and value-based reward or positive emotion prioritisation effects was found among the clusters. A shift function indicated a partial dominance of high-reward over low-reward distributions at later processing stages in participants with slower but not faster responses. Full stochastic dominance of self-relevance over others and positive over neutral emotion was pertinent to each subgroup of participants. Our findings suggest the independent origin of the self-prioritisation effect. In contrast, commonalities in cognitive mechanisms supporting value-based reward and positive emotion processing are subject to individual differences. These findings add important evidence to a steadily growing research base about the relationship between basic behavioural drivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17470218221102887
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Early online date11 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022


  • Self-relevance
  • value-based reward
  • positive emotion


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