Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

More of Me! Distinguishing Self and Reward Bias Using Redundancy Gains

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

More of Me! Distinguishing Self and Reward Bias Using Redundancy Gains

Article excerpt

Published online: 12 August 2015

# The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2015

Abstract Participants show a perceptual bias favoring stimuli associated with the participants themselves over stimuli associated with other people. A major account of this self-bias effect is that self-related information is intrinsically rewarding, and that high-reward stimuli have enhanced perceptual processing. Here we used redundancy gains to examine the relations between self bias and reward, and whether self and reward biases modulate common levels of stimulus integration. We demonstrated that the self-association bias increases when more than one exemplar of the stimulus is presented (i.e., when participants are exposed to redundant stimuli). The larger self-bias effects for redundant than for single stimuli arose at both perceptual and conceptual levels of representation (respectively, for identical and nonidentical stimuli associated with the same category). In contrast, high-reward stimuli did not affect perceptual redundancy gains with identical shapes, but they did affect redundancy gains with nonidentical stimuli associated with the same category. The strong redundancy effects with self-related stimuli are consistent with self associations modulating stimulus integration at both perceptual and conceptual levels, whereas reward only modulated higher-level conceptual processes (with nonidentical stimuli). The data provide two novel theoretical advances, by showing that (i) self association modulates both early perceptual coding and higher-level conceptual coding, whereas reward only affects the higher-level process, and (ii) self bias can not be reduced simply to differential effects of reward.

Keywords Self bias . Reward bias . Redundancy gain

People show biased responses to information associated with themselves compared with other people. This bias has been found in a range of tasks, from studies of memory through to judgments of character traits and face recognition (e.g., see Cunningham, Turk, Macdonald, & Macrae, 2008;Ma& Han, 2010). Effects have also been demonstrated on perceptual matching, in which a self association to a shape lessens the effects of reducing stimulus contrast (luminance), as compared to other-person associations (Sui, He, & Humphreys, 2012). These results indicate that self bias is a pervasive aspect of human information processing, modulating multiple factors, including perception as well as memory. The factors underlying the self-bias effect, though, remain poorly understood.

One major account of why self biases arise links the effects to reward. For example, Northoff and Hayes (2011)argued that self biases may come about because self-related stimuli are inherently rewarding, and that reward-based reinforcement changes both perception and memory. This argument for reward mediating self biases on cognition has empirical support. For instance, self-bias effects on perceptual matching can be mimicked by varying the reward values associated with stimuli, because stimuli associated with high reward behave similarly to stimuli associated with the self-for instance, lessening the effects of contrast (luminance) reduction on matching the shape to its associated label (Sui et al., 2012). Here we attempted to test whether reward was a critical driver of self bias in perceptual processing, using a redundancy gain paradigm. Redundancy gains have previously been used to test the level(s) at which the integration of information occurs (e.g., is information integrated at perceptual, conceptual, or response levels? see Miller, 1982; Mordkoff & Yantis, 1991; Raab, 1962; Townsend & Nozawa, 1995). We asked whether both self and reward biases enhance the gains to processing from presenting redundant stimuli. We also asked whether the two biases modulate redundancy gains at the same level of processing. To do this, we contrasted redundancy gains when the two shapes had the same physical identity and when they had different shapes but mapped onto the same conceptual identity (e. …

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