Facial Expressions of Emotion Influence Memory

Facial Expressions of Emotion Influence Memory for Facial Identity in an Automatic Way
Arnaud D’Argembeau
University of Liege, Belgium
Martial Van der Linden
University of Geneva, Switzerland, and University of Liege, Belgium
Emotion. 2007 Aug;7(3):507-15.

Background: Previous studies indicate that the encoding of new facial identities in memory is influenced by the type of expression displayed by the faces. In the current study, the authors investigated whether or not this influence requires attention to be explicitly directed toward the affective meaning of facial expressions.

Methods: The experiment consisted of a 3 (encoding condition: expression, intelligence,nose size) x 2 (facial expression: happy, angry) mixed model design with encoding condition as a between-participants factor and expression as a within-participants factor.

Results: In a first experiment, the authors found that facial identity was better recognized when the faces were initially encountered with a happy rather than an angry expression, even when attention was oriented toward facial features other than expression. Using the Remember/Know/Guess paradigm in a second experiment, the authors found that the influence of facial expressions on the conscious recollection of facial identity was even more pronounced when participants' attention was not directed toward expressions.

Conclusions: It is suggested that the affective meaning of facial expressions automatically modulates the encoding of facial identity in memory.

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