Attentional control and the self: The Self-Attention Network (SAN)

Glyn W. Humphreys, Jie Sui

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

213 Citations (SciVal)


Although there is strong evidence that human decision-making is frequently self-biased, it remains unclear whether self-biases mediate attention. Here we review evidence on the relations between self-bias effects in decision-making and attention. We ask: Does self-related information capture attention? Do self-biases modulate pre-attentive processes or do they depend on attentional resources being available? We review work on (1) own-name effects, (2) own-face effects, and (3) self-biases in associative matching. We argue that self-related information does have a differential impact on the allocation of attention and that it can alter the saliency of a stimulus in a manner that mimics the effects of perceptual-saliency. However, there is also evidence that self-biases depend on the availability of attentional resources and attentional expectancies for upcoming stimuli. We propose a new processing framework, the Self-Attention Network (SAN), in which neural circuits responding to self-related stimuli interact with circuits supporting attentional control, to determine our emergent behavior. We also discuss how these-bias effects may extend beyond the self to be modulated by the broader social context—for example, by cultural experience, by an in-group as opposed to an out-group stimulus, and by whether we are engaged in joint actions. Self-biases on attention are modulated by social context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-17
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Attention
  • Own-face effect
  • Own-name effect
  • Self-bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Attentional control and the self: The Self-Attention Network (SAN)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this