Why does self-reference promote incidental encoding?

Ronald J. Ganellen, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Answering a question regarding a stimulus word can cause incidental encoding of the word itself. The thoroughness of the encoding depends in part upon what question is answered. For example, saying whether a word describes oneself causes a particularly high degree of incidental encoding. The study reported here investigated several variables that have been proposed as mediators of that effect. As in previous research, subjects completed an incidental-encoding and recall procedure. They then rated (a) the quality and degree of affect that they would experience if each stimulus word were to be applied to them, (b) the importance to them of the behavioral/psychological dimension implied by the stimulus word, and (c) the degree to which they saw themselves as distinctive on that dimension. As in previous studies, deciding whether a word described the self increased the likelihood of subsequent recall. There also was a highly significant interaction such that words judged to be applicable to self were recalled better than those judged not to be applicable. There was no evidence, however, of a mediational role for any other variable studied. Discussion centers on theoretical implications of the data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-300
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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