Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

The Cognitive Advantage for One's Own Name Is Not Simply Familiarity: An Eye-Tracking Study

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

The Cognitive Advantage for One's Own Name Is Not Simply Familiarity: An Eye-Tracking Study

Article excerpt

Published online: 4 April 2013

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract Eye-tracking technique and visual search task were employed to examine the cognitive advantage for one's own name and the possible effect of familiarity on this advantage. The results showed that fewer saccades and an earlier start time of first fixations on the target were associated with trials in which participants were asked to search for their own name, as compared to search for personally familiar or famous names. In addition, the results also demonstrated faster response times and higher accuracy in the former kind of trials. Taken together, these findings provide important evidence that one's own name has the potential to capture attention and that familiarity cannot account for this advantage.

Keywords Self-related information * Cocktail-party effect * Cognitive advantage * Attention capture

Due to its personal salience and strong emotional arousal, self-related information has demonstrated a consistent cog- nitive advantage in a large number of studies using various approaches (Brédart, Delchambre, & Laureys, 2006; Keenan, Freund, Hamilton, Ganis, & Pascual-Leone, 2000; Moray, 1959; Symons & Johnson, 1997; Tong & Nakayama, 1999). Among these findings is the well-known "cocktail party effect," which shows that one's own name can be detected easily, even under unattended conditions. Since Moray's famous study, the cognitive advantage for perceiving one's own name has been established in both auditory and visual modalities (Harris, Pashler, & Coburn, 2004; Wolford &Morrison,1980;Wood&Cowan,1995). It has also been shown that one's own name can be resistant to the attentional blink and repetition blindness (Arnell, Shapiro, & Sorensen, 1999; Shapiro, Caldwell, & Sorensen, 1997).

Despite such findings, however, evidence has been in- consistent about whether one's own name has an advantage in capturing attention. While some studies have confirmed that one's own name can pop out of an array of up to 12 items, reduce the attentional blink in rapid serial visual presentation, and disrupt performance of a primary task (Mack & Rock, 1998;Shapiroetal.,1997;Shelley- Tremblay & Mack, 1999; Wolford & Morrison, 1980), others have found that it did not cause more interference than did other names when used as a distractor (Bundesen, Kyllingsbæk, Houmann, & Jensen, 1997; Harris et al., 2004; Kawahara & Yamada, 2004). There is also evidence that one's own name gains cognitive priority only when it is presented within the focus of attention or when participants are set to identify it (Gronau, Cohen, & Ben-Shakhar, 2003; Kawahara & Yamada, 2004).

Another issue that remains unresolved is whether familiarity might influence the cognitive advantage for one's own name. Given the high familiarity inherent in self-related informa- tion, it seems quite reasonable to attribute this advantage to familiarity in some way. Surprisingly, however, little research has been done to address this issue. The few studies that have employed familiar names as control stimuli have focused on the neural basis of self-name recognition and yielded incon- sistent results (Qin et al., 2012; Sugiura et al., 2008; Tacikowski, Brechmann, Marchewka, Jednoróg, Dobrowolny, & Nowicka, 2011; Tacikowski, Jednoróg, Marchewka, & Nowicka, 2011). Moreover, these studies relied on a simple familiar/unfamiliar discrimination task, which has made it difficult to address the issue of attentional capture.

In the present study, the eye-tracking technique was used to investigate these two issues. Measurements of eye movements can provide an objective psychophysiological marker of visual attention in real time (Just & Carpenter, 1976; Noton & Stark, 1971). Saccade paths, locations of fixations, gaze durations, and times of occurrence are more revealing about the spatio- temporal location of attention than are indirect measures, such as response times (RTs) or percentages correct. …

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