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   2012, Vol. 44 Issue (4) : 489-497     DOI:
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Processing Priority for Self-related Information: Evidence from Visual Search of Screen Names
YANG Hong-Sheng;WANG Fang;GU Nian-Jun;HUANG Xi-Ting
(Research Center for Psychology and Social Development, Southwest University; Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (SWU), Ministry of Education; School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China)
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Abstract  It is well established in a number of studies that there exists a cognitive priority for self-related material, such as one’s own face and name. Among these findings is the well-known cocktail party effect which demonstrates that one’s own name can be more easily detected, even in unattended conditions. As both names and faces are fixed self-related material to a large extent, the current research was aimed to extend previous findings by employing a kind of flexible self-related material --- one’s own screen name which is usually chosen or designed by users themselves and can be easily changed. Despite the large difference in formation rule, usage practice and environment, screen names and real names share the same function as symbol of self-representation in their respective contexts. As a result, it can be expected there might be a similar cognitive priority for one’s own screen name. In the current research, three visual search experiments were designed to examine such a possibility.
Experiment 1 compared the visual search speed and accuracy for participants’ own QQ (one of the most popular instant messaging software in China, which has several hundreds of million registered users) name and one control QQ name. The results showed that across all three different display set sizes (2, 6 and 12 names), the search speed was consistently faster for participants’ own QQ name than control stimuli. Besides that, there was a marginally higher hit rate for own QQ name while the false alarm rates demonstrated no difference under the two conditions. In Experiment 2 which was aimed to examine the own QQ name’s interference effect on target item, participants were asked to search one specific QQ name with own/control QQ names as distracters in different trials. ANOVA found neither significant main effects nor interaction. Across all three display set sizes, the search speed and accuracy showed no difference whether own or control QQ name was used as distracters. There was either no difference between hit rates in the two kinds of trials. Experiment 3 made direct comparisons between visual search performance for own screen name and real name. There was no significant difference in either response time or accuracy for these two names. However, they were both more accurately and quickly detected than famous names.
Taken together, results of the three experiments showed that as target stimuli, own screen name can be detected more quickly and accurately than control screen name while as distracters, they do not show any larger interference effect on target stimuli. These results completely replicated those of studies using real name stimuli. These similar patterns suggested that recognition of own screen names might share the same mechanism as own real name.
In conclusion, the current research provided preliminary evidences on the cognitive priority of self-related online material. As a result of its self-relevance and repeated use, one’s own screen name obtains strong personal salience and the consequent preferential processing. Based on the existence of such an online cocktail party effect, processing priority about self-related information can be extended from real world to the virtual online environment. In future studies, the possible individual difference and the effect of familiarity in screen name recognition constitutes two important issues which deserves to be directly explored.
Keywords self-related information      screen name      cocktail-party effect      processing priority     
Corresponding Authors: HUANG Xi-Ting   
Issue Date: 28 April 2012
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YANG Hong-Sheng
WANG Fang
GU Nian-Jun
HUANG Xi-Ting
Cite this article:   
YANG Hong-Sheng,WANG Fang,GU Nian-Jun, et al. Processing Priority for Self-related Information: Evidence from Visual Search of Screen Names[J]. , 2012, 44(4): 489-497.
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http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/     OR     http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/Y2012/V44/I4/489
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