Journal Article

Loving yourself more than your neighbor: ERPs reveal online effects of a self-positivity bias

Eric C. Fields and Gina R. Kuperberg

in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Volume 10, issue 9, pages 1202-1209
Published in print September 2015 | ISSN: 1749-5016
Published online January 2015 | e-ISSN: 1749-5024 | DOI:
Loving yourself more than your neighbor: ERPs reveal online effects of a self-positivity bias

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A large body of social psychological research suggests that we think quite positively of ourselves, often unrealistically so. Research on this ‘self-positivity bias’ has relied mainly on self-report and behavioral measures, but these can suffer from a number of problems including confounds that arise from the desire to present oneself well. What has not been clearly assessed is whether the self-positivity bias influences the processing of incoming information as it unfolds in real time. In this study, we used event-related potentials to address this question. Participants read two-sentence social vignettes that were either self- or other-relevant. Pleasant words in self-relevant contexts evoked a smaller negativity between 300 and 500 ms (the N400 time window) than the same words in other-relevant contexts, suggesting that comprehenders were more likely to expect positive information when a scenario referred to themselves. This finding indicates that the self-positivity bias is available online, acting as a general schema that directly influences real-time comprehension.

Keywords: event-related potentials (ERP); N400; self; emotion; positive illusions

Journal Article.  6986 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognition and Behavioural Neuroscience

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