Enhanced visual short-term memory for angry faces

Margaret C Jackson, Chia-Yun Wu, David E J Linden, Jane E Raymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Although some views of face perception posit independent processing of face identity and expression, recent studies suggest interactive processing of these 2 domains. The authors examined expression-identity interactions in visual short-term memory (VSTM) by assessing recognition performance in a VSTM task in which face identity was relevant and expression was irrelevant. Using study arrays of between 1 and 4 faces and a 1,000-ms retention interval, the authors measured recognition accuracy for just-seen faces. Results indicated that significantly more angry face identities can be stored in VSTM than happy or neutral face identities. Furthermore, the study provides evidence to exclude accounts for this angry face benefit based on physiological arousal, opportunity to encode, face discriminability, low-level feature recognition, expression intensity, or specific face sets. Perhaps processes activated by the presence of specifically angry expressions enhance VSTM because memory for the identities of angry people has particular behavioral relevance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-374
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


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