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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The spatial and temporal dynamics of self-relevance of attention for objects Truong, Grace


Ownership is a powerful mechanism for influencing attention. Objects that are owned by the self receive more attention and are more likely to be remembered than equivalent objects that are owned by another person. The most common explanation for this ownership effect is self- referencing/self-relevance: the act of associating an object with the self such that it is personally relevant to the self. What remained unknown is how the ownership-attention relationship functions when the scope of the self is expanded to include the influences of the body and the continuity (or lack thereof) of self-relevance over time. Over three studies, my dissertation aims to contextualize the attentional effects of ownership within these broader dimensions. In the first study, I found that the presence of the body could moderate the classic effect of ownership but that this moderation depends on the body’s ability to directly manipulate the contents of its environment. In the second study, I found that ownership might operate as a form of affective salience, altering attentional prioritization and, in turn, temporal perception. In the third study, I found that objects that cease to be self-owned still receive greater attentional resources than objects that are not initially self-owned, suggesting that the effects of self-relevance are robust to subsequent changes in ownership. My research demonstrates that the effects of ownership on attention may rely on multiple aspects of self, including embodiment and motivational significance. Importantly, one critical element that emerges from these studies is that of an active or agentic self that is distinguishable from more object-based aspects of self. Collectively, these findings suggest that a deeper understanding of ownership effects on attention necessitates a deeper understanding of the self.

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