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We report data demonstrating that self-referential encoding facilitates memory performance in the absence of effects of semantic elaboration in a severely amnesic patient also suffering semantic problems. In Part 1, the patient, GA, was trained to associate items with the self or a familiar other during the encoding phase of a memory task (self-ownership decisions in Experiment 1 and self-evaluation decisions in Experiment 2). Tests of memory showed a consistent self-reference advantage, relative to a condition where the reference was another person in both experiments. The pattern of the self-reference advantage was similar to that in healthy controls. In Part 2 we demonstrate that GA showed minimal effects of semantic elaboration on memory for items he semantically classified, compared with items subject to physical size decisions; in contrast, healthy controls demonstrated enhanced memory performance after semantic relative to physical encoding. The results indicate that self-referential encoding, not semantic elaboration, improves memory in amnesia. Self-referential processing may provide a unique scaffold to help improve learning in amnesic cases.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2663 - 2673


Evaluation, Long-term memory, Ownership, Self-referential processing, Semantic elaboration, Amnesia, Analysis of Variance, Brain, Humans, Judgment, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Memory Disorders, Middle Aged, Neuropsychological Tests, Recognition, Psychology, Self Concept, Semantics