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3 February 2023 - 3 February 2023

1:00PM - 2:00PM

L50, Psychology building

  • Free

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This talk is part of the Department of Psychology (Durham University) seminar series.

What does it mean, to have a ‘self’ – something that defines us, and that differentiates us from our environment and from others? People differ in many aspects of their physical and psychological attributes, and expression of this individual uniqueness is ubiquitous in many (Western) cultures. However, having a core self-representation goes beyond contrasting conscious and clearly defined self-images, but constitutes a deeply conserved feature that is expressed across species, and may be fundamental for integrating sensory inputs into a coherent and stable representation of the environment around us. In order to study the self experimentally, we operationalize it through prioritization effects on perceptual and cognitive processing (i.e., self-relevant information is processed faster and more efficiently). At the same time, we can utilize the self as a social construct to learn more about the malleability of perceptual-cognitive processes to high-level conceptual representations. In this talk, I will introduce a series of studies that make use of this transdisciplinary approach to understanding the self, as well as its effects on hierarchical information processing. Our results show that attaching mere self-relevance to environmental information alters decision-making, multisensory integration, and even early attentional selection. Furthermore, our studies suggest that effects of self-relevance towards different types of information originate from an individual’s same, underlying self-representation, providing a stable processing basis that can flexibly incorporate novel information. As such, these studies shed light onto how our individual experiences are affected by our self-representation across multiple levels of information processing. Furthermore, they serve as an example of transdisciplinary research: combining different perspectives and approaches to transcend the traditionally conceived boundaries between disciplines in order to provide a more holistic approach to understanding our mind and behaviour.