Effects of facial expression on working memory

Emelie S. Stiernströmer, Martin Wolgast, Mikael Johansson
Published Online:
04 Aug 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 51 Issue 4

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In long‐term memory (LTM) emotional content may both enhance and impair memory, however, disagreement remains whether emotional content exerts different effects on the ability to maintain and manipulate information over short intervals. Using a working‐memory (WM) recognition task requiring the monitoring of faces displaying facial expressions of emotion, participants judged each face as identical (target) or not (non‐target) to that presented 2 trials back (2‐back). Negative expression was better and faster recognised, illustrated by higher target discriminability and target detection. Positive and negative expressions also induced a more liberal detection bias compared with neutral. Taking the preceding item into account, additional accuracy impairment (negative preceding negative target) and enhancement effects (negative or positive preceding neutral target) appeared. This illustrates a differential modulation of WM based on the affective tone of the target (mirroring LTM enhancement‐ and recognition bias effects), and of the preceding item (enhanced and impaired target detection).

© 2015 International Union of Psychological Science