Self-knowledge activation and the scope of attention

The experimental study focused on the self-regulatory functions of self-knowledge. It aimed to examine how the momentary accessibility of three different aspects of self-knowledge affects the scope of attention. The global-local visual processing paradigm was used to compare the scope of attention after activating the self standards vs. the can self vs. the impossible self. Following the manipulation, the participants (123 students, 50% women) performed the 16-item visual processing task (Fredrickson and Branigan, 2005), designed to assess biases in attentional focus. As expected, the activation of the can self resulted in a global bias (broadened attentional focus) compared to the activation of the self standards, which resulted in a local bias (narrowed attentional focus). Contrary to the expectations however, the global bias was also observed after the activation of the impossible self. The results suggest that thinking about oneself in terms of one’s possibilities results in global scope of attention, even if self-knowledge regarding the lack of possibilities is taken into account.