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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Holger Wiese

Wiese, H., Altmann, C.S. & Schweinberger, S.R. (2014). Effects of attractiveness on face memory separated from distinctiveness: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Neuropsychologia 56: 26-36.

Author(s) from Durham


The present study examined effects of attractiveness on behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) correlates of face memory. Extending previous reports, we controlled for potential moderating effects of distinctiveness, a variable known to affect memory. Attractive and unattractive faces were selected on the basis of a rating study, and were matched for distinctiveness. In a subsequent recognition memory experiment, we found more accurate memory for unattractive relative to attractive faces. Additionally, an attractiveness effect in the early posterior negativity (EPN) during learning, with larger amplitudes for attractive than unattractive faces, correlated significantly with the magnitude of the memory advantage for unattractive faces at test. These findings establish a contribution of attractiveness to face memory over and above the well-known effect of distinctiveness. Additionally, as the EPN is typically enhanced for affective stimuli, our ERP results imply that the processing of emotionally relevant attractive faces during learning may hamper their encoding into memory.