Journal Article

Switch costs in the self-memory system


Two studies on undergraduates examined the idea that the working self operates as an executive structure to constrain and co-ordinate the generation of autobiographical memories. A switching task was used, in which participants completed an autobiographical memory fluency task, either using alternating self-image cues, or the same cue repeatedly. In two experiments, there was a clear switch cost, whereby participants took longer to generate autobiographical memories when alternating between two different self-images. In the second experiment, there was also a similar cost associated with generating names and places from two separate domains, home and university. Taken together, these experiments support the idea that autobiographical memories and personal semantics are organized into a hierarchical structure, which can be probed using executive function-like tasks. In particular, the task switch cost points to retrieval systems being geared up to retrieving memories according to the current goals of the self. In terms of autobiographical retrieval, the self can thus be thought of as a mental structure which is subject to dynamic patterns of excitation and interference.

Attached files


Rathbone, CJ
Moulin, CJA

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health


Year of publication: 2016
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-03-09

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Switch costs in the self-memory system


  • Owner: Rosa Teira Paz
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 70