Abertay Self Lab

Led by Dr Sheila Cunningham

We are a research group focused on understanding self-processing biases in children and adults.


We have ongoing projects looking at the early development of self-biases, the impact of clinical disorders, and their potential for educational applications (details below). For information, to participate in research, or to apply for postgratuate opportunities within the research team, please contact s.cunningham@abertay.ac.uk.



Research team

Zahra Ahmed (PhD student)

Kirsty Macmillan (Research Assistant)

Ailsa Gow (Research assistant)



In collaboration with:

Dr Josephine Ross (Dundee University)

Dr Jacqui Hutchison (University of Aberdeen)

Current projects

Me in Memory

We are exploring the development of self-processing biases in memory in children aged three to ten years, and their relationship with other aspects of development. This 'Me in Memory' project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and is being run in collaboration with Dr Josephine Ross (Dundee University) and Dr Jacqui Hutchison (University of Aberdeen)

Applying the self in education

Self-cues can capture attention and increase memory for information, features that have obvious educational applications. We are running a number of studies exploring the usefulness of incorporating self-cues in educational materials, in collaboration with Dr David Turk (Bristol University), Dr Josephine Ross (Dundee University) and Dr Janet McLean (Abertay University).

Self in developmental disorders

Self-processing can vary across individuals, and particularly in children who are diagnosed with developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD. In collaboration with Dr Josephine Ross (Dundee University), Dr Karri Gillespie Smith (UWS) and Dr Sinead Rhodes (Edinburgh University), we are examining the extent and nature of these variations.

Effects of self-cues on cognition

Cues of self-relevance have significant effects on the attention system, affective processing, binding and memory, partly driven by their high position in the goal hierarchy. In collaboration with Dr Kevin Allan and Dr Doug Martin (Aberdeen University), and Dr Julia Vogt (Reading University) we are testing these cognitive effects and the conditions under which they are likely to be evoked.

>>>> NEWS <<<<

  •  [Nov 2018] A major paper from our Leverhulme-funded project on self-development has been accepted for publication in Child Development - happy days! The paper is called 'The me in memory: The role of the self in autobiographical memory development'. 
  • [Sept 2018] Lab on tour!! We recently presented work from our Me in Memory project at the BPS's Cognitive and Developmental section conference in Liverpool.
  • [Aug 2018] Short video of Dr Cunningham explaining our education research now available via Dundee University's TILE EduSnaps page.

Dissemination

2017/18 Publications

  • Ross, J., Cunningham, S. J., & Hutchison, J. (in press). The me in memory: The role of the self in autobiographical memory development. Child Development. 
  • Cunningham, S. J., Scott, L., Hutchison, J., Ross, J., & Martin, D. (2018). Applying self-processing biases in education: Improving learning through ownership. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7, 342-351.
  • Cunningham, S. J. (2018). The thoughtful self. In Hauke & Kritikos (Eds.) Embodiment in Psychology – A Practitioner’s Guide. Springer.
  • Gillespie-Smith, K, Ballantyne, C, Branigan, H, Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. (2018). The I in Autism: Severity and social functioning in Autism is related to self-processing. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 36, 127-141. doi:  10.1111/bjdp.12219 
  • Hutchison, J., Martin, D., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Smith, K., & Cunningham, S. J. (2017). Shared cognitive biases influence the cumulative cultural evolution of stereotypes, Cognitive Science, 1-27. doi: 10.1111/COGS.12560
  • Martin, D., Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G. & Smith, K. (2017). How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11, 1-13. doi: 10.1111/SPC3.12338
  • Allan, K., Morson, S., Dixon, S., Martin, D. & Cunningham, S. J. (2017). Simulation-based mentalizing generates a ‘proxy’ self-reference effect in memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 1074-1084. doi: 0.1080/17470218.2016.1209532
  • Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, S. J. (2017). A review of self-processing biases in cognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 987-995. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1276609

Click here for full publication list. 

2017/18 conference presentations

  • Ahmed, Z., Cunningham, S. J., Ross, J. & Rhodes, S. Exploring the self-reference effect in ADHD. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018.
  • Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J.,Growing me: The development of the self-reference effect across childhood. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Sept. 2018
  • Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Ross, J. Development of incidental and explicit self-reference effects reveals distinct cognitive mechanisms. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Aug. 2018.
  • Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J., The me in memory: Using the self-reference effect to measure development in the
    autobiographical self. BPS Cognitive Section Annual Conference, Liverpool, Aug. 2018.
  • Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Ross, J. & Martin, D. Self-biases in recall: Applying ownership effects in education. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sept. 2017.
  • Ross, J., Hutchison, J., & Cunningham, S. J. Self-processing biases in event memory: Implications for the development of self-awareness. BPS Developmental Section Annual Conference, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sept. 2017.
  • Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., & Martin, D. The ownership effect in memory: applications for learning. International Convention on Psychological Science, Vienna, March 2017.

Schools and educators

Workshops and Continuing Professional Development sessions

We are leading research into the positive effects of self-processing biases on children's learning. We can advise on strategies and methodologies to improve children's task engagement and performance, by capitalising on self-cues. For more details, please contact Dr Sheila Cunningham (s.cunningham@abertay.ac.uk)

With support from: