ARC Discovery Project Research Assistants
Honours Students (2017)
Madeline Vaschina: Embodied Ownership of Space in Children and Adults
The concept of ownership is fundamental to most developed societies. Recently, research has found that ownership of objects can be embodied, such that we position objects we own nearer to our body that objects owned by another. This effect begins to emerge in children from about two years of age. My Honours project aimed to extend up on this research by determining if ownership of space is embodied. I predicted that both adults and children would be inclined to use a larger area of a self-owned space than an other-owned space, and consequently position objects farther away from their body. I also predicted that perceptions of near and far locations within space would expand when interacting in a self-owned space and retract when interacting in an other-owned space.
To represent space, I gifted participants with a placemat (see image below). I measured participants’ positioning of a neutral object on the self-owned placemat and another placemat that I owned. I found that adults indeed positioned the object further away and lifted it higher in a self-owned space compared with an other-owned space. Contrary to predictions, the effect was not observed in children, and did not appear to influence near-far perceptions in children or adults. I argued that the concept of ownership was not salient enough in children for the ownership effect to emerge, or for there to be an effect on perceptions of near and far, and hope to conduct further research to address this limitation.
Hannah Wong: The Influence of the Interdependent Self-Construal on the Self-Reference Effect in Object Encoding
I investigated the effect of one’s self-construal on the relationship between ownership and memory. The memory advantage for self-owned items is known as the self-reference effect (SRE). Sparks, Cunningham, and Kritikos (2016) found that for Asian participants, there is an extension of the memory advantage usually afforded to the self, to mother-owned objects but not to stranger-owned objects. They propose that this finding was theoretically underpinned by the Self-Construal Theory. According to this theory, the interdependent view of the self that is typical in Asian countries sees the self as connected and less differentiated from others (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The primary referent for their behaviour is the thoughts, feelings and actions of the people they are in relationship with, such as their family members (Heine, 2008; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The interdependent self is also associated with a prominent ingroup-outgroup distinction such that this behavior towards others is exclusive to ingroup members only such as family members and close friends but not to strangers (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). In my thesis, I suggest this prominent ingroup-outgroup distinction in the interdependent self influences the SRE. I also investigated whether within-culture differences in one’s perceived self-construal will be associated with SRE findings. To test this, Asian female participants (N= 81) completed a ‘shopping’ task where they allocated items into bags assigned as theirs, their mother’s or a stranger’s. The stranger condition in my research was different from that in Sparks and colleagues’ (2016). In their research, participants imagined a stranger named “Lee” but in my research the stranger was the experimenter who was present during the experiment. This ensured a more concrete perception of the stranger. The experimenter also shared in similar characteristics to the participants such as general Asian ethnicity, course of study and gender. After the allocation task, participants completed a surprise recognition memory test where they were shown items from the shopping task and foil items and indicated whether they recognized the items or not. Last, participants were administered the revised Self-Construal Scale to assess within-culture differences in independence and interdependence. Participants in the stranger condition had a memory advantage for self- over stranger-owned items. Participants in the mother condition had an equal memory for both self- and mother-owned items. Furthermore, there was no association between perceived self-construal and self-bias. Overall, these findings suggest for participants from interdependent cultures, the SRE extends to one’s ingroup member (operationalized here as participants’ mother) but not to one’s outgroup member (here, a stranger) even when the outgroup member is present and shares a similar culture, age, occupation and gender. These results provide insight into the how our social self influences our memory. Moreover, for the interdependent self, cognitive biases associated with the self extend to ingroup members.
Research Assistants & Undergraduate Research Scholars