Simulation induces durable, extensive changes to self-knowledge

Jordan Rubin-McGregor, Zidong Zhao, Diana I. Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The sense of self is a hallmark of the human experience, but it is also unstable. Even simulating another person – thinking about their traits or experiences – can shift how one thinks about their own traits or experiences. Simulating a target shifts self-knowledge such that it becomes more similar to the target; in six studies, we explore how extensively these changes occur. In all studies, participants first rated themselves in a specific context, then simulated another individual in the same context, and finally considered themselves again. We calculated how participants' self-knowledge changed by comparing similarity to the target before vs. after simulation. In Studies 1–2, participants' episodic memories shifted to be more similar to the simulated target; this change persisted at least 48 h. Studies 3–4 show that semantic self-knowledge changes after considering semantically related traits, while Study 5 shows that this effect extends to cross-language traits. Together, these results suggest that simulation causes durable, extensive changes across both episodic and semantic self-knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104229
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Memory malleability
  • Self-knowledge
  • Semantic networks
  • Simulation
  • Social cognition


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