Motherhood Modulates Cognitive Biases Toward Family Members: the Maternal Self-concept Re-examined Through Categorization Tasks
Abstract The self-bias is a robust effect where self-related information is processed with greater priority than other-related information. Interestingly, the advantages of self-bias can be extended to close others – faster and more accurate responses for one’s mother and best friend have been observed compared to strangers – suggesting that significant others play an important role in the formation of one’s self-concept. Moreover, important life experiences such as childbirth can also impact the self-concept. Motherhood is a major transformation for women as one prepares to become a mother while maintaining the integrity of the pre-pregnant self-concept to achieve an ideal maternal self. The current study explored how the transition into motherhood changes the self-concept and subsequently impact the categorization of information for family members in postpartum mothers. In two experiments, results consistently revealed biases towards the self and close kin (one’s baby and mother) regardless of stimulus type (names in Experiment 1, faces in Experiment 2) and response category (self/other, family/non-family, familiar/non-familiar). A family bias (for baby and mother) over friend was observed in the family/non-family but not in the familiar/non-familiar categorization task, suggesting that motherhood may enhance the boundary between family and non-family to facilitate the processing of family-related information.