Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Super-Size Me: Self Biases Increase to Larger Stimuli

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Super-Size Me: Self Biases Increase to Larger Stimuli

Article excerpt

Published online: 12 August 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Prior work has shown that simple perceptual match responses to pairings of shapes and labels are more efficient if the pairing is associated with the participant (e.g., circle-you) than if it is associated with another familiar person (e.g., square-friend). There is a similar advantage for matching associations with high-value rewards (circle-£9) versus lowvalue rewards (square-£1) (Sui, He, & Humphreys Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 38, 1105-1117, 2012). Here we evaluated the relations between the self- and reward-bias effects by introducing occasional trials in which the size of a shape was varied unexpectedly (large or small vs. a standard medium). Participants favored stimuli that were larger than the standard when stimuli were associated with the self, and this enhancement of self bias was predicted by the degree of self bias that participants showed to standard (medium) sized stimuli. Although we observed a correlation between the magnitudes of the self and reward biases over participants, reward-bias effects were not increased to large stimuli. The data suggest both overlapping and independent components of the self and reward biases, and that self biases are uniquely enhanced when stimuli increase in size, consistent with previously reported motivational biases favoring large stimuli.

Keywords Self bias · Reward bias · Size perception · Probability


Prior work has shown that people are biased to respond toward stimuli that are related to themselves. This has been reported both in high-level tasks (e.g., Greenwald & Banaji, 1995) involving either memory for stimulus materials (Maki & McCaul, 1985; Macrae, Moran, Heatherton, Banfield, & Kelley, 2004; Wells, Hoffman, & Enzle, 1984) or trait judgments about individuals (Klein, Loftus, & Burton, 1989; Rogers, Kuiper, & Kirker, 1977) and in lower-level tasks stressing perceptual judgments (e.g., face perception; Keenan, McCutcheon, Sanders, Freund, Gallup, & Pascual-Leone, 1999;Ma&Han,2010; Sui & Han, 2007; Tong & Nakayama, 1999). Recently, we have shown that self-bias effects can be rapidly established and can modulate even simple perceptualmatching tasks. Sui, He, and Humphreys (2012) had participants form associations with labels referring to themselves, their best friend, or a stranger (e.g., circle-you, square-friend). After this training, participants had to judge whether the shape-label pairings were maintained (match responses) or changed (e.g., circle-friend, square-you; mismatch responses). Match responses were markedly faster and more accurate to self pairs (circle-you) than to pairs linked to other people (square-friend), and this effect occurred even when the frequency and imageability of the labels was controlled. The self advantage over stimuli related to a friend increased when the contrast of the shapes was lower, suggesting that the self bias modulated perceptual processing. Sui, Liu, Mevorach, and Humphreys (2014) showed that this rapidly established bias occurs even when participants respond to the shapes alone (without labels), and that these effects are equivalent to heightening the perceptual saliency of self-associated shapes, relative to shapes associated with other people. This self-bias effect to newly associated stimuli is associated with increased connectivity between putative self-related brain regions (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and brain areas responding to salient environmental stimuli (posterior superior temporal sulcus; Sui, Rotshtein, & Humphreys, 2013). This last result is consistent with the brain rapidly establishing connections in order to heighten attentional responses to stimuli associated with the self.

Along with showing advantages in perceptual matching for self-related stimuli, Sui et al. (2012) demonstrated that shape- label matches were enhanced if the label referred to a high relative to a low reward value (e. …

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