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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2012 Mar;97(3):321-5. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2012.01.007. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Emotional information in body and background hampers recognition memory for faces.

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Brain and Emotion Laboratory Leuven, Division of Psychiatry, Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


Emotional influences on memory for events have long been documented yet surprisingly little is known about how emotional signals conveyed by contextual cues influence memory for face identity. This study investigated how positively and negatively valenced contextual emotion cues conveyed by body expressions or background scenes influence face memory. The results provide evidence of emotional context influence on face recognition memory and show that faces encoded in emotional (either fearful or happy) contexts (either the body or background scene) are less well recognized than faces encoded in neutral contexts and this effect is larger for body context than for scene context. The findings are compatible with the hypothesis that emotional signals in visual scenes trigger orienting responses which may lead to a less elaborate processing of featural details like the identity of a face, in turn resulting in a decreased facial recognition memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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