ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (8): 879-889.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00879

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Enhancement effect of near spatial distance on self-referential processing: Evidence from behavioral and ERPs studies

ZHANG Pengcheng1,LI Yangzhuo2,ZHOU Shujin1,GAO Xiangping1(),PAN Xin3   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, School of Education, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
    2 The School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    3 Nanjing Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, Nanjing 211100, China
  • Received:2018-10-23 Published:2019-08-25 Online:2019-06-24
  • Contact: Xiangping GAO


Self-reference can improve the memorization of stimulated information, and this is a phenomenon called the self-referential effect. Previous studies from the perspective of social distance (such as parents, friends, and strangers) show that the speed of processing or classifying stimulus and memory performance under self-reference significantly outperform the cases under other-reference. Other than social distance, another concept greatly influences individual cognition and behavior: spatial distance. However, research from the perspective of spatial distance is scant. To broaden the perspectives on the self-referential effect, we constructed different distance conditions through a 2D corridor and investigated how spatial distance affects self-referential processing through a learning-recognition paradigm and event-related potential techniques. Neutral nouns were used as the experimental materials.

We designed a 2 (reference: self, other) ×2 (distance: far, near) within groups design and added a stranger reference as the alert group. The corridor has three grids: the upper, middle, and lower grids. In the learning stage, the neutral noun was randomly presented in the middle grid while the name was also shown randomly in the upper or lower grid. Two levels of the distance variable were measured by the distance between the middle and the upper or lower grids. Participants were required to press the up arrow“↑”when name (except stranger’s name) appeared in the upper grid, and press the down arrow“↓”when name (except stranger’s name) appeared below. If a stranger’s name appeared in any grid, the participants had to press “f”. And try to associate the words with the names in mind during experiment. After a simple calculation of the interference task, a surprise recognition test was conducted. The response time, accuracy rate and EEG data of the participants were recorded during the experiment.

The results showed that the response time under self-reference was significantly shorter than that under other-reference, and the response time of near-distance was significantly shorter than far-distance. The main effects of distance on the amplitude of P1 and N1 components and the latency of N1 component were significant, whereas the main effects of reference on those aspects were not significant. Self-referential and other-referential processing in near-distance induced larger LPC amplitude and right frontal activation relative to the far-distance alternative. In the recognition stage, memory performance in self-reference was significantly better than that in other-reference, and such performance under the near-distance condition was significantly better than that under the far-distance situation. However, memory performances under other-reference with the far- and near-distance conditions were not significant.

This study broadens our understanding of self-referential processing from the perspective of spatial distance. Compared with the far-distance condition, the near-distance counterpart enhances self-referential processing; thus, when individuals process the self-reference information in the near-distance, greater LPC amplitude and right frontal activation as well as better memory performance is achieved. This study provides implications for future exploration of the self-referential effect from the perspective of spatial distance.

Key words: self-referential processing, spatial distance, enhancement effect

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