Reading between the lines of the face: The relationship between mentalizing and face memory

Open Access
Franklin, Robert Gene
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Reginald Adams Jr., Dissertation Advisor
  • Reginald Adams Jr., Thesis Advisor
  • theory of mind
  • social psychology
  • memory
  • face processing
  • mentalizing
Of the many meanings communicated by a face, decoding what a person is thinking and remembering a person’s facial identity are two essential processes for smooth social interactions. This thesis examines the relationship between decoding a person's mental state based on facial cues and the ability to remember that person's face. To examine this relationship, I first tested whether differences in the extent to which faces elicit mental state reasoning are associated with corresponding improvements in face memory. I predicted that the more a face elicited more complex mental state reasoning, the better it would be remembered. Additionally, I predicted that the better participants were at decoding mental states from others, the better they would also remember new faces in a separate memory test. Study 1 supported both of these hypotheses. Secondly, I examined whether face memory mediates the common ingroup bias found in face memory. Ingroup bias is defined as better memory for faces one perceives as belonging to their own group. I observed mixed evidence in support of this. Surprisingly, this study failed to replicate an ingroup bias in face memory using the surprise memory test. However, when I used a memory test in which participants were explicitly told to remember faces for a subsequent memory test, I then replicated the own-group bias and found a trend toward mentalizing as a mediator of this relationship. This incidental finding suggests that the own-race bias is in some ways a distinct phenomenon compared to the more general own-group bias, and explanations for how this may be the case are discussed.