The socially situated self: How the social environment shapes self-referential processing

Merryn Constable, James Strachan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Characterising objects as meaningful to the self is a powerful and ecologically relevant driver towards selecting, attending, monitoring and responding to stimuli in an environment. Indeed, self-relevant or associated objects reliably demonstrate benefits in information processing and/or response execution (i.e. self-prioritisation). Although some classical philosophies have treated the self as a stable solitary unit, more contemporary approaches recognise that the self is usually treated as special only in contrast to some ‘other’ – that is, the self is not an isolated entity, but one embedded within a rich social environment populated with other agents. Here we will integrate this philosophy of a socially situated self into the study of self-referential cognition. Relevant cognitive literature shows that a known other may benefit similarly to self in enhanced memory and this may vary as a function of culture. Further, an individual’s group may be prioritised. So, both the individual and social selves may be prioritised. More persuasive evidence for the importance of the social environment, however, comes from direct modulations to the presence or magnitude of the self-prioritisation effect itself. Both the presence of others and socially defined spaces (e.g. territory) influence how the self-prioritisation effect manifests. The potential evolutionary basis of such modulations to self-prioritisation will also be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContributions to the 63rd Tagung Experimentell arbeitender Psychologen
Subtitle of host publicationTeaP@Home 2021: Abstracts of the 63rd Conference of Experimental Psychologists
EditorsA. Huckauf, Ernst M. Baumann, C. Herbert, M. Kiefer, M. Sauter
Place of PublicationLengerich
PublisherPabst Science Publishers
Number of pages1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2021
EventTeaP 2021: Conference of Experimental Psychologists - Virtual, Ulm, Germany
Duration: 14 Mar 202116 Mar 2021
Conference number: 63


ConferenceTeaP 2021
Internet address


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