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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An unforgettable apple : attention and memory for forbidden objects Truong, Grace


Are we humans drawn to the forbidden? From jumbo-sized soft drinks to illicit substances, the influence of prohibited ownership on subsequent demand has made this question a pressing one. We know that objects we ourselves own have a heightened psychological saliency, relative to comparable objects that are owned by others, but do these kinds of effects extend from self-owned to "forbidden" objects? To address this question I developed a modified version of the Turk shopping paradigm in which “purchased” items were assigned to various recipients. Participants sorted everyday objects labeled as self-owned, other-owned, and either forbidden to oneself (Experiment 1) or forbidden to everyone (Experiment 2). Subsequent surprise recognition memory tests revealed forbidden objects with high (Experiment 1) but not low self-relevance (Experiment 2) were recognized as well as self-owned objects and better than other-owned objects. In a third and final experiment I used event-related potentials (ERPs) to determine whether self-owned and self-forbidden objects, which showed a common memory advantage, are in fact treated the same at a neurocognitive-affective level. I found that both object types were associated with enhanced cognitive analysis, relative to other-owned objects, as measured by the P300 ERP component. However, I also found that self-forbidden objects uniquely triggered an enhanced response preceding the P300, in an ERP component (the N2) sensitive to more rapid, affect-related processing. Our findings thus suggest that while self-forbidden objects share a common cognitive signature with self-owned objects, they are unique in being identified more quickly at a neurocognitive level.

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