Self-bias effect: movement initiation to self-owned property is speeded for both approach and avoidance actions

Tara Barton, Merryn D. Constable, Samuel Sparks, Ada Kritikos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Recall of, and physical interaction with, self-owned items is privileged over items owned by other people (Constable et al. in Cognition 119(3):430–437, 2011; Cunningham et al. in Conscious Cognit 17(1):312–318, 2008). Here, we investigate approach (towards the item), compared with avoidance (away from the item) movements to images of self- and experimenter-owned items. We asked if initiation time and movement duration of button-press approach responses to self-owned items are associated with a systematic self-bias (overall faster responses), compared with avoidance movements, similar to findings of paradigms investigating affective evaluation of (unowned) items. Participants were gifted mugs to use, and after a few days they completed an approach–avoidance task (Chen and Bargh in Pers Soc Psychol Bull 25(2):215–224, 1999; Seibt et al. in J Exp Soc Psychol 44:713–720, 2008; Truong et al. in J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 42(3), 375-385, 2016) to images of their own or the experimenter’s mug, using either congruent or incongruent movement direction mappings. There was a self-bias effect for initiation time to the self-owned mug, for both congruent and incongruent mappings, and for movement duration in the congruent mapping. The effect was abolished in Experiment 2 when participants responded based on a shape on the handle rather than mug ownership. We speculate that ownership status requires conscious processing to modulate responses. Moreover, ownership status judgements and affective evaluation may employ different mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-1406
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number4
Early online date30 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


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