The Self-Reference Effect on Memory in Early Childhood


  • This research was supported by a grant from the European Research Council (202893) awarded to David J. Turk. We thank the children, parents, and teachers for their support of the research, and the four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Data from Experiment 1 were presented at the 2011 SRCD annual meeting (Montreal, Canada).


The self-reference effect in memory is the advantage for information encoded about self, relative to other people. The early development of this effect was explored here using a concrete encoding paradigm. Trials comprised presentation of a self- or other-image paired with a concrete object. In Study 1, 4- to 6-year-old children (= 53) were asked in each trial whether the child pictured would like the object. Recognition memory showed an advantage for self-paired objects. Study 2 (= 55) replicated this finding in source memory. In Study 3 (= 56), participants simply indicated object location. Again, recognition and source memory showed an advantage for self-paired items. These findings are discussed with reference to mechanisms that ensure information of potential self-relevance is reliably encoded.