Sheila Cunningham
Email Sheila Cunningham

I obtained a BSc in Psychology from Aberdeen University in 1999, and completed a PhD in social cognition in the same department in 2004. I remained at Aberdeen as an ERC-funded Research Fellow, exploring self-referential memory biases in adults and children, before joining the University of Abertay in 2011 as a Lecturer in Psychology.

My research interests lie in social cognition, exploring the mechanisms and biases through which we process information about ourselves and other people.

Particular areas of interest include:
• self-reference effects in memory
• the early development of self-processing biases, and implications for learning and education
• the impact of ownership on cognition
• the effects of stereotypes on cognition and behaviour
• person perception across the lifespan

    2015-2018: The 'me' in memory: Exploring the developing self and its influence on cognition. Leverhulme Trust. £106,336.

In Press

Hutchison, J., Cunningham, S.J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Smith, K., & Martin, D. (in press). Context and perceptual salience influence the formation of novel stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. Cognitive Science.


Allan, K., 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.

Cunningham, S. J., & Turk, D. J. (2017). A review of self-processing biases in cognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 987-995.

Martin, D., Cunningham, S.J., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G. & Smith, K. (in press). How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11.


Sparks, S., Cunningham, S. J., & Kritikos, A. (2016). Culture modulates implicit ownership-induced self-bias in memory. Cognition, 153, 89-98. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.05.003


Cunningham, S. J. (2015). The function of the self-attention network. Cognitive Neuroscience, 7, 21-22. doi: 10.1080/17588928.2015.1075485.

Martin, D., Swainson, R., Slessor, G., Hutchison, J., Marosi, D., & Cunningham, S.J. (2015). The simultaneous extraction of multiple social categories from unfamiliar faces. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 60, 51-58.

Turk, D. J., Gillespie-Smith, K., McGowan, L., Havard, C., Conway, M. A., Krigolson, & Cunningham, S. J. (2015). Selfish learning: The impact of self-referential encoding on children’s literacy attainment. Learning & Instruction, 40, 54-60. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2015.08.001


Cunningham, S. J., Brebner, J. L., Quinn, F., & Turk, D. J. (2014). The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. Child Development, 85, 808-823.

Martin, D., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Cunningham, S.J., & Smith, K. (2014). The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. Psychological Science, 25, 1777-1786, doi:10.1177/0956797614541129


Cunningham, S. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Gill, L., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Survival of the selfish: Contrasting self-referential encoding and survival processing. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 237-244.

Cunningham, S. J., Vergunst, F., Macrae, C.N., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Exploring early self-referential memory effects through ownership. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31, 289-301.

Turk, D. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Collard, P., Gillespie-Smith, K., Conway, M. A., & Cunningham, S. J., (2013). Divided attention selectively impairs memory for self-relevant information. Memory and Cognition, 41, 503-10.


Cunningham, S. J., Van den Bos, M., & Turk, D. J. (2011). Exploring the effects of ownership and choice on self-memory biases. Memory, 19, 449-461.

Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2011). The color of gender stereotyping. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 598-614.

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J. W., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P., & Macrae, C.N. (2011). The autobiographical future: Testing the prospective consolidation hypothesis of mental time travel. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 1120-1126.

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P. & Macrae, C. N. (2011). Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind. Consciousness and Cognition.


Van den Bos, M., Cunningham, S. L., Conway, M. A. & Turk, D. J. (2010). Mine to remember: The impact of ownership on recollective experience. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1065-1071.


Cunningham, S. J., Turk, D. J., Macdonald, L. M., & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Yours or mine? Ownership and self-memory. Consciousness & Cognition, 17, 312-318.

Turk, DJ., Cunningham, SJ., & Macrae, CN., (2008). Self-memory biases in explicit and incidental encoding of trait adjectives. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 1040-1045.



Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. & Crawford, J. R. (2007). The effects of acute alcohol intoxication on person memory: The stereotypic drunk. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 187-199.



Cunningham, S. J. & Russell, P. (2004). Gender roles and the mediation of evolved partner preferences. Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, 6, 131-150.

University of Aberdeen
University of Abertay
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