The impact of self-esteem on the preferential processing of self-related information: Electrophysiological correlates of explicit self vs. other evaluation

PLoS One. 2018 Jul 16;13(7):e0200604. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200604. eCollection 2018.


Preferential processing of self-related information is a well-documented phenomenon on both the behavioral and neural levels. However, the impact of self-esteem on this self-preference has not been studied in a systematic way. Here, the electrophysiological correlates of explicit self-reflection were investigated in individuals with low (LSE) and high self-esteem (HSE). Participants evaluated trait adjectives in reference to the self or to an "other" person (close-other, famous) while EEG was recorded. The analysis of event-related potentials focused on the late positive component (LPC), which exhibits a fronto-central distribution and latency over 500 ms. In both LSE and HSE groups, the amplitudes of LPC were enhanced in the self condition when compared to control conditions (both close-other and famous). Crucially, LPC amplitudes in the HSE group were significantly higher than in the LSE group. Moreover, the self-preference effect, defined as the difference between amplitudes of LPC associated with the evaluation of words in relation to oneself vs. other people, was significantly higher in the HSE group than in the LSE group. Overall, our findings indicate that people with high self-esteem tend to engage in self-referential processing to a higher extent.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept*

Grant support

This research was funded by National Science Centre Poland (grant 2015/19/B/HS6/01258 to AN and grant 2015/17/D/HS6/00269 to MB; MB was supported by a stipend from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (555/STYP/11/2016; The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.