The Role of Expectations in the Encoding and Retrieval of Faces

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Steiner, Troy Garrett
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 06, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Reginald B. Adams, Jr. , Thesis Advisor
  • Theresa K. Vescio , Committee Member
  • Nancy A. Dennis , Committee Member
  • Face Memory
  • Encoding and Retrieval
  • Stereotypes
  • Expectations
  • Memory
The ability to remember people— a skill detectable in newborn infants (Field, Woodson, & Greenberg, 1983) — is remarkable and critical to a functional social life (Yardley, McDermott, Pisarski, Duchaine, & Nakayama, 2008). However, memory is often imperfect (e.g., eyewitnesses identify the wrong individual as often as 78% of the time; Malpass & Devine, 1981), as well as biased (e.g., the ability to remember faces dramatically decreases if the person belongs to a different group or race; Hugenberg & Corneille, 2009). Several contemporary models attempt to address how preconceived expectations might influence the ability to accurately remember faces (i.e., sensitivity) as well as the tendency to falsely remember a face (i.e., bias). However, these models differ on whether people will be more adept at remembering faces that satisfy (i.e., are congruent with) or violate (i.e., are incongruent to) preconceived expectations and whether the contribution of these expectancies will have the greatest influence at the initial formation of the memory (encoding) or at the recall stage of the memory (retrieval). Across three experiments, I present evidence addressing how individual differences in expectation strength operationalized as stereotype endorsement influences memory sensitivity and memory bias and the contributory effects of the encoding and retrieval stages of memory to this phenomenon. These results are later interpreted and discussed in light of the models reviewed, with a focus on societal implications, and potential future directions seeking to further examine potential moderators and additional cognitive underpinnings of this phenomenon.