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Gender difference in recognition memory for neutral and emotional faces

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Research has shown females' advantage in face memory, but few studies have used emotional faces as stimuli. In addition, it is unclear whether gender difference in memory for faces is mediated by individual factors especially associated with emotion. This study examined gender difference in recognition memory for neutral and emotional faces and whether arousal predisposition, emotion reappraisal, and emotion suppression can play a mediation role. Females (N=48) and males (N=45) viewed and memorised neutral, happy, and angry faces, and then took an immediate recognition test. The findings are: (1) Females outperformed males in recognition memory for happy faces, but not for neutral and negative faces. (2) Gender difference in recognition memory (including recollection and familiarity) was not mediated by arousal predisposition and emotion regulation. (3) Females had an own-sex bias in that they outperformed males with regard to recognition memory only for female faces, but not for male faces. The findings suggest that females' advantage is mediated by valence of face emotionality but not by arousal predisposition and emotion regulation, thus extending the literature by demonstrating the boundary condition for occurrence of females' advantage.
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Keywords: Emotional face; Familiarity; Individual differences; Own-sex bias; Recognition memory; Recollection

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China

Publication date: November 1, 2013

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