My name or yours? Event-related potential correlates of self-name processing

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Abstract

This electrophysiological study examined the roles of self-specificity (designating the participant: ‘me’ vs. ‘not-me’), self-relevance (degree of relevance to the participant: high self-relevance vs. less self-relevance), and familiarity (the frequency of occurrence in daily routine: high familiarity vs. less familiarity) in the preferential processing of self-name (SN) by comparing the processing of SN (i.e. the participant’s name being of ‘me’, high self-relevance and high familiarity) with the processing of a close other’s name (CON) (e.g. the participant’s father’s name being of ‘not-me’, high self-relevance and high familiarity), a famous person’s name (FPN) (e.g. a politician’s name being of ‘not-me’, less self-relevance and less familiarity), and an unknown name (UN) (e.g. a stranger’s name being of ‘not-me’, self-irrelevance and unfamiliarity). Participants were asked to complete an implicit task (i.e. to judge the color of the name stimuli). This study found that SN elicited larger N170 amplitudes than all other names, whereas there were no differences between its amplitudes elicited by all other names. There were no differences between P300 amplitudes elicited by SN and CON, whereas the above two names elicited larger P300 amplitudes than FPN and UN. These findings suggest that the preferential processing of SN is not only because of self-relevance and familiarity that could differentiate between names with high self-relevance and high familiarity (i.e. SN and CON) and names with less self-relevance/self-irrelevance and less familiarity/unfamiliarity (i.e. FPN and UN) but also because of self-specificity that could differentiate between SN and all other names.

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