British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 37 Issue 2 (June 2019), Pages i-iv, 149-307

Exploring individual differences in self‐reference effects for agency and ownership in 5‐ to 7‐year‐olds (pages 168-183)

Evidence that self‐relevant information enjoys a privileged status in memory is termed the self‐reference effect (SRE). Testing 5‐to 7‐year‐olds (n = 39), we aimed to shed light on the SRE by examining the memorial advantage for self‐relevant information as a function of general ability, theory of mind, empathy, and recollection. Playing in pairs, children were presented with an array of pictures and took turns to select pictures (agency) and turn them over to reveal to whom they belonged (ownership). Later, they viewed the studied pictures intermixed with new ones and provided recognition‐ and source memory judgements. There was a robust SRE in recognition memory, mainly for agency, which varied positively with intellectual ability but negatively with theory of mind, empathy, and recollection. These findings accord with claims that self‐referential information benefits from elaboration handled by domain‐general processes, with the SRE counteracted by social processes that increase attention to other people. Statement of Contribution What is already known on this subject? Self‐referential information is remembered better than information with little or no personal relevance (the self‐reference effect or SRE) Children as young as 4 years show the SRE in tests of recognition‐ and source memory What does this study add? We explored individual differences variables correlated with the SRE in 5–7 year olds The SRE showed a positive relation with general intellectual ability but negative relations with empathy, theory of mind and recollection We suggest that self‐referential information benefits from elaboration handled by domain‐general processes, with the SRE counteracted by social processes that increase attention to other people

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