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Psychol Bull. 1997 May;121(3):371-94.

The self-reference effect in memory: a meta-analysis.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Houghton College, New York 14744, USA.


In this review, the authors examine the basis for the mnemonic superiority that results from relating material to the self. A meta-analysis confirms the expected self-reference effect (SRE) in memory, with self-referent encoding strategies yielding superior memory relative to both semantic and other-referent encoding strategies. Consistent with theory and research that suggest self-reference (SR) produces both organized and elaborate processing, the SRE was smaller (a) when SR is compared with other-reference (OR) rather than semantic encoding and (b) when the comparison tasks promote both organization and elaboration. Thus, the SRE appears to result primarily because the self is a well-developed and often-used construct that promotes elaboration and organization of encoded information. The authors discuss the implications of these and other findings for theories of the SRE and for future research.

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