Recall performance as a function of orienting task, and "yes" versus "no" ratings. Based on data in Rogers et al. (1977).

Self-reference effect

Rogers, Kuiper, and Kirker (1977) reported one of the first studies on the self-reference effect. They presented a series of adjectives, and asked some participants to make self-reference judgements (i.e., describes you?). Other participants made semantic judgements (i.e., means the same as...?), phonemic judgements (i.e., rhymes with.?), or structural judgements (i.e., capital letters?). As predicted by levels-of-processing theory (see Chapter 6), later recall of the adjectives was much higher after semantic judgements than either phonemic or structural judgements. However, the key finding was that recall was about twice as high after self-reference than semantic judgements (see Figure 8.3).

The self-reference effect can also be shown by comparing the effects of self-reference against those of other-reference, in which judgements are made about someone known to the participants. Bower and Gilligan (1979) found that other-reference tasks generally produced poorer levels of recall than self-reference. However, memory performance resembling that found with self-reference was obtained when a very well known other person (e.g., one's own mother) was used as a referent.

Symons and Johnson (1997) reviewed 60 studies that had compared the effects of self-reference and semantic encoding, and a further 69 that had compared self-reference tasks against other-reference tasks. Meta-analyses (statistical analyses based on combining data from numerous studies) indicated a very clear self-reference effect. This effect was greater when self-reference was compared against semantic tasks than when it was compared against other-reference tasks. However, there was no self-reference effect when the self-reference task involved categories of nouns (e.g., parts of the body) rather than personality traits. According to Symons and Johnson (1997), "SR [Self-reference] works best to facilitate memory when certain kinds of stimuli are used— stimuli that are commonly organised and elaborated on through SR" (p. 392).

Theoretical accounts

Why does the self-reference effect occur? According to Rogers et al. (1977), each individual has an extensive self-schema (an organised long-term memory structure incorporating self-knowledge). This self-schema is activated when self-referent judgements are made. At the time of recall, the self-schema activates a network of associations, and thus serves as an effective retrieval cue.

Symons and Johnson (1997) developed that theoretical approach: "the SRE [self-reference effect] results primarily because the self is a well-developed and often-used construct in memory that promotes both elaboration and organisation of encoded information" (p. 372). They reported supporting evidence. The self-reference effect was much smaller than usual in studies in which self-reference was compared against semantic encoding tasks that permitted elaboration and organisation. For example, Klein and Kihlstrom (1986) compared the importance of self-reference and organisation as factors determining memory. Participants were presented with a list of occupations, and had to perform one of four tasks on each word:

1. Semantic, organised: Does this job require a college education?

2. Semantic, unorganised: Different questions for each word (e.g., Does this person perform operations?).

3. Self-reference, organised: Have you ever wanted to be a.?

4. Self-reference, unorganised: Yes-no decisions on different bases for each word (e.g., I place complete trust in my.).

Organisation made a large difference to memory. However, self-reference was no more effective than ordinary semantic processing when the extent to which the information is organised was controlled. In fact, self-reference was associated with poorer recall than normal semantic processing if it failed to encourage organisation. On this line of reasoning, the self-reference reported by Rogers et al. (1977) and by others is found when the self-reference task encourages organisation to a greater extent than does the rival semantic task.

How unique are the effects of self-reference? According to Symons and Johnson (1997, p. 392), "Our evidence suggests that SR [self-reference] is a uniquely efficient process; but it is probably unique only in the sense that, because it is a highly practised task, it results in spontaneous, efficient processing of certain kinds of information that people deal with each day—material that is often used, well organised, and exceptionally well elaborated."

Flashbulb memories

Brown and Kulik (1977) were impressed by the very vivid and detailed memories that people have of certain dramatic world events (e.g., the assassination of President Kennedy; the resignation of Mrs Thatcher). They argued that a special neural mechanism may be activated by such events, provided that they are seen by the individual as surprising and having real consequences for that person's life. This mechanism "prints" the details of such events permanently in the memory system. According to Brown and Kulik, flashbulb memories are not only accurate and very long-lasting, but also often include the following categories of information:

• Informant (person who supplied the information).

• Place where the news was heard.

• Individual's own emotional state.

• Emotional state of others.

Business Correspondence

Business Correspondence

24 chapters on preparing to write the letter and finding the proper viewpoint how to open the letter, present the proposition convincingly, make an effective close how to acquire a forceful style and inject originality how to adapt selling appeal to different prospects and get orders by letter proved principles and practical schemes illustrated by extracts from 217 actual letter.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment