Attempted recall of biographical information influences face attractiveness


We examined affective consequences arising from the kinds of memory retrieval failures that often accompany social interaction. To do so, we measured the influence of cued-recall outcomes for biographical information on the rated attractiveness of faces. The data demonstrate that retrieval of names (Experiment 1a) and professions (Experiment 1b) increases the rated attractiveness of target faces relative to faces that failed to produce recall of associative information. This was predicted by a confirmation of search (COS) model originally developed on verbal memoranda, which assumes that confirmation bias during memory search leads to affective consequences depending upon retrieval’s success or failure. The current study extends this model, showing that evaluative judgments of individuals are in part contingent upon the memory retrieval skills of their assessors. We conclude by discussing potential extensions of the COS paradigm to the measurement of implicit attitudes and special populations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Data availability

The analysis scripts and data are available at the Open Science Foundation ( The project was preregistered at the Open Science Foundation (


  1. 1.

    In Experiments 1 and 2 of Grybinas et al. (2019), the order recognition and pleasantness judgments were manipulated such that subjects either rated items for pleasantness either before or after the recognition decision. Neither experiment showed a main effect of judgment order on rated pleasantness, nor did judgment order interact with the outcome of memory judgment on rated pleasantness. This insensitivity of judgment order appears to occur because subjects initiate retrieval attempts before pleasantness ratings even when those ratings are performed first. For example, in Experiment 2 of Grybinas et al. (2019), recognition decision times were almost 3 times faster when they followed pleasantness ratings (mean median 548 ms) than when they preceded the pleasantness ratings (mean median 1,470 ms), t(1, 152) = 19.5, p < .001, and the same pattern occurred with pleasantness judgments, t(1, 152) = 6.74, p < .001. This would suggest that the memory decisions and pleasantness ratings were being processed to some degree jointly. In the current study, we chose to have the pleasantness ratings conducted first because it highlights the importance of retrieval outcomes that may be concurrently undertaken during the pleasantness evaluation. Again, however, the findings of Grybinas et al. (2019) indicate similar effects of retrieval outcomes occur regardless of whether memory reporting precedes or follows the pleasantness rating.

  2. 2.

    A subject in Experiment 1b did not commit any intrusions and was consequently left out of the one-way ANOVA. This subject was likewise omitted from any pairwise comparison involving intrusion trials, explaining the differences in reported degrees of freedom. There was thus a total of 33 subjects for these analyses.


  1. Atkinson, R. C., & Raugh, M. R. (1975). An application of the mnemonic keyword method to the acquisition of a Russian vocabulary. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 1(2), 126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bar-Anan, Y., & Nosek, B. A. (2012). Reporting intentional rating of the primes predicts priming effects in the affective misattribution procedure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1194–1208.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Bates, D., Mächler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2014). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. ArXiv Preprints. Article 1406.5823.

  4. Bornstein, R. F., & D’Agostino, P. R. (1992). Stimulus recognition and the mere exposure effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(4), 545–552.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Bornstein, R. F., & D’Agostino, P. R. (1994). The attribution and discounting of perceptual fluency: Preliminary tests of a perceptual fluency/attributional model of the mere exposure effect. Social Cognition, 12(2), 103–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bruce, V., & Young, A. (1986). Understanding face recognition. British Journal of Psychology, 77(3), 305–327.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Chetverikov, A. (2014). Warmth of familiarity and chill of error: Affective consequences of recognition decisions. Cognition and Emotion, 28(3), 385–415.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Coleshill, S. G., Binnie, C. D., Morris, R. G., Alarcón, G., van Emde Boas, W., Velis, D. N., … van Rijen, P. C. (2004). Material-specific recognition memory deficits elicited by unilateral hippocampal electrical stimulation. Journal of Neuroscience, 24(7), 1612–1616.

  9. Cooper, P. A., Geldart, S. S., Mondloch, C. J., & Maurer, D. (2006). Developmental changes in perceptions of attractiveness: A role of experience? Developmental Science, 9(5), 530–543.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. DuBrow, S., Eberts, E. A., & Murty, V. P. (2019). A common mechanism underlying choice’s influence on preference and memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(6), 1958–1966.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Foo, Y. Z., Simmons, L. W., & Rhodes, G. (2017). Predictors of facial attractiveness and health in humans. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 39731.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  12. Grybinas, D., Kantner, J., & Dobbins, I. G. (2019). Mere exposure effect(s) in the context of explicit memory search. Memory & Cognition, 47(7), 1314–1327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Herlitz, A., & Lovén, J. (2013). Sex differences and the own-gender bias in face recognition: A meta-analytic review. Visual Cognition, 21(9/10), 1306–1336.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Johnson, M. K., Hashtroudi, S., & Lindsay, D. S. (1993). Source monitoring. Psychological Bulletin, 114(1), 3–28.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Kuznetsova, A., Brockhoff, P. B., & Christensen, R. H. B. (2015). Package ‘lmertest’ (R Package Version 2.0) [Computer software]. Accessed March-May 2020.

  16. Lawrence, M. A. (2016). ez: Easy analysis and visualization of factorial experiments (R Package Version 4.4-0) [Computer software]. Accessed March-May 2020.

  17. Lee, A. Y. (2001). The mere exposure effect: An uncertainty reduction explanation revisited. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(10), 1255–1266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lüdecke, D. (2018). sjPlot: Data visualization for statistics in social science (R Package Version, 2.1) [Computer software]. Accessed March-May 2020.

  19. Ma, D. S., Correll, J., & Wittenbrink, B. (2015). The Chicago face database: A free stimulus set of faces and norming data. Behavior Research Methods, 47(4),1122–1135.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. McCarty, D. L. (1980). Investigation of a visual imagery mnemonic device for acquiring face–name associations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 6(2), 145.

  21. Newell, B. R., & Shanks, D. R. (2007). Recognising what you like: Examining the relation between the mere-exposure effect and recognition. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19(1), 103–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Norman, D. A., & Bobrow, D. G. (1979). Descriptions: An intermediate stage in memory retrieval. Cognitive Psychology, 11(1), 107–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Peirce, J. W. (2007). PsychoPy—Psychophysics software in Python. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 162(1/2), 8–13.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  25. Rajaram, S., Srinivas, K., & Roediger III, H. L. (1998). A transfer-appropriate processing account of context effects in word-fragment completion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 24(4), 993.

  26. Rhodes, G., Proffitt, F., Grady, J. M., & Sumich, A. (1998). Facial symmetry and the perception of beauty. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5(4), 659–669.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Robinson, D. (2017). broom: Convert statistical analysis objects into tidy data frames (R Package Version 0.4, 2) [Computer software]. Accessed March-May 2020.

  28. Robotham, R. J., & Starrfelt, R. (2017). Face and word recognition can be selectively affected by brain injury or developmental disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

  29. Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (1999). Facial attractiveness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3(12), 452–460.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Tulving, E., & Thomson, D. M. (1973). Encoding specificity and retrieval processes in episodic memory. Psychological Review, 80(5), 352–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Wickham, H. (2017). tidyverse: Easily install and load the ‘tidyverse’ (R Package Version 1.2.1, 1(1)) [Computer software]. Accessed March-May 2020.

  32. Woodhead, M. M., & Baddeley, A. D. (1981). Individual differences and memory for faces, pictures, and words. Memory & Cognition, 9(4), 368–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Yonelinas, A. P., Kroll, N. E. A., Dobbins, I. G., & Soltani, M. (1999). Recognition memory for faces: When familiarity supports associative recognition judgments. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 6(4), 654–661.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt. 2), 1–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding authors

Correspondence to David Grybinas or Ian G. Dobbins.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Grybinas, D., Dobbins, I.G. Attempted recall of biographical information influences face attractiveness. Psychon Bull Rev (2021).

Download citation


  • Memory
  • Encoding effects
  • Emotion
  • Cued recall