Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that higher-order cognitive processes associated with the allocation of selective attention are engaged when highly familiar self-relevant items are encountered, such as one's name, face, personal possessions and the like. The goal of our study was to determine whether these effects on attentional processing are triggered on-line at the moment self-relevance is established. In a pair of experiments, we recorded ERPs as participants viewed common objects (e.g., apple, socks, and ketchup) in the context of an “ownership” paradigm, where the presentation of each object was followed by a cue indicating whether the object nominally belonged either to the participant (a “self” cue) or the experimenter (an “other” cue). In Experiment 1, we found that “self” ownership cues were associated with increased attentional processing, as measured via the P300 component. In Experiment 2, we replicated this effect while demonstrating that at a visual–perceptual level, spatial attention became more narrowly focused on objects owned by self, as measured via the lateral occipital P1 ERP component. Taken together, our findings indicate that self-relevant attention effects are triggered by the act of taking ownership of objects associated with both perceptual and postperceptual processing in cortex.

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