Effects of facial expression on working memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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).


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • Recognition bias, Emotion-induced impairment, Emotion-induced enhancement, Facial expression, Two-back
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-317
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date2015 Aug 4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch