Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (x, 68 pages) : color illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jeanette Altarriba

Committee Members

Gordon G Gallup, Bennett Schwartz


arousal, emotion, face memory, face-name pair learning, valence, Memory, Emotions and cognition, Face perception, Attention

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology


The emotion literature has maintained that emotional stimuli are prioritized over neutral stimuli: Emotional words and images are detected faster, processed more automatically, and remembered better. However, the benefit from processing emotional stimuli can also be affected by valence, wherein some emotion advantages are driven by positive emotion and others by negative emotion. This is particularly evident in the face memory literature, in which researchers have investigated the role of expressed emotion in learning new faces. For example, some have found that happy faces are more memorable than angry and neutral faces. However, when comparing memory for happy faces with a variety of negative expressions (e.g., angry, sad, afraid, and so on), the findings are more variable. The current set of experiments was designed to assess the relative impact of expressed facial emotion on face memory by comparing faces according to valence and arousal dimensions. Experiment 1 investigated memory for emotional and neutral faces under intentional learning conditions. The memory advantage for positive faces, relative to negative faces, was only observed when the negative faces were angry (Experiment 1A); the opposite pattern was observed with sad faces (Experiment 1B). In Experiments 2A and 2B, face memory was compared under several incidental learning conditions, with both emotional expression and face gender affecting memory performance across immediate and delayed testing conditions. Experiments 3 and 4 investigated the role of emotion in face-name pair learning using neutral (Experiment 3) and emotional (Experiment 4) contexts. In Experiment 3, name recall was benefited by repeated testing, but only with feedback, relative to single-study and re-study conditions. In Experiment 4, recall performance was facilitated by happy and angry contexts, but greatly inhibited by a sad context, relative to the neutral baseline context. Together, findings from these experiments illustrate the complex relationship between emotion and face processing, with evidence suggesting the importance of both valence and arousal contributions.