Short-term memory focuses on things we label as ‘ours,’ no matter how random they are — ScienceDaily

You are in the middle of the conversation, because you heard your name and suddenly turned away. Don't worry, you are not rude.

Our thoughts will automatically focus our attention on our names in crowded rooms.

While this "cocktail party effect" that turns our attention to self-related stimuli is well known, scientists don't know if something similar happens in our minds. If a particular idea is associated with our self, then we think about it faster than other ideas? By testing this “self-referential bias” in working memory, Duke researchers began to understand how our brains make us naturally self-centered.

Their work appeared in the March 1st edition of the Psychology Science .

"People give priority to themselves in their minds," said senior author Tobias Egner, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. “The question is, how automated is the order of priority? Can you help? If so, it may affect the way you make decisions.”

Working memory, sometimes called short-term memory, is "our interface with the world," said Egner, a member of the Duke Brain Science Institute. For example, to read this sentence, your working memory will save each word in temporary storage for a few seconds until you reach that time. “We use working memory to make complex decisions, we have to weigh different information and keep them in mind,” Egner said. “If you always put self-related information first, then when you evaluate different choices, this bias can drive your decision by weighting the information more strongly and outweigh your short-term memory. Other things."

In order to test self-referential bias in working memory, the research team, Duke University, the University of Bath, and the University of Southwestern China, and funded by the Chinese government, created a computer program and conducted it. The test was conducted in 102 study participants.

First, participants learned to associate blue, green, and purple colors with the simple "friends," "strangers," or "self" labels in the game. Then, two dots of different colors, such as green and purple, will flash briefly on the screen. After a pause of five seconds, the participant must remember the position and color of the previous point and a black dot will appear on the screen. The participant then indicates if the black dot is flashing at the same location as one of the colored dots, and if so, which tag is appropriate.

Participants correctly identify the point of the "self" mark significantly faster than the "friend" or "stranger" point. This means that their working memory is concentrated at the point marked with the "self" color.

"Imagine that you remember two things," Egna said. "If you are accepting a test for any of them and you can answer a question faster than the other, then you will give it priority."

"Although its association with color and position has nothing to do with you, and you don't have to prioritize one to take precedence over another to complete the task, we reliably show four experiments and you are always responding faster &# 39; Self ' Reference clues. "

In a variant of the experiment, the researchers showed the color of the "self" mark as half of the "stranger" or "friend" color to see if the participants still prioritize the "self" even if they are "Self" is a worse task.

"Although they prioritize the other two, they will be smarter, but their color is still faster," Egner said. “This does indicate that there is autonomy there: we cannot help prioritize the stimuli associated with ourselves.”

Future research may include whether observations are appropriate for more difficult tasks, as almost all participants correctly complete each task in an 80- to 100-minute trial.

They can test whether those who prioritize the "self" make more selfish decisions than others by combining this experimental setup with altruistic experiments. Researchers can also find this "selfish" "cost" by identifying different types of participants to identify "strangers" or "other" tags.

"You can pay different people to quickly respond to different colors," Egna said. "Then, you can know exactly that in order to get the same performance speed, the price paid for the ' Stranger' color is more than the #39;self' color."

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Materials provided by Duke University . The original text written by Yen Duong. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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