Brain waves following remembered faces index conscious recollection

Ken A. Paller*, Vladimir S. Bozic, Charan Ranganath, Marcia Grabowecky, Shishin Yamada

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


At a glance, one can often determine whether a face belongs to a known individual. To investigate brain mechanisms underlying this memory feat, we recorded EEG signals time-locked to face presentations. In the study phase, 40 unknown faces were presented, 20 of which were accompanied by a voice simulating that person speaking. Instructions were to remember the faces with spoken biographical information (R-faces) and to forget the others (F- faces). In the test phase, famous and non-famous faces were presented in a visually degraded manner. Subjects made two-choice fame judgments and priming was observed in the form of faster and more accurate responses for old than for new non-famous faces. Priming did not differ between R-faces and F- faces. In a second experiment, faces were not degraded at test and behavioral responses were made only when faces were presented twice in immediate succession. Brain potentials elicited 300 to 900 ms after stimulus onset from frontal and parieto-occipital scalp regions were larger for R-faces than for F-faces. Recognition tested later was more accurate for R-faces than for F- faces. Because the study-phase manipulation influenced recognition but not priming, we conclude that this procedure succeeded in isolating neural correlates of recollective processing from more automatic uses of face memory as indexed by priming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-531
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1999


  • Directed forgetting
  • ERPs
  • Event-related potentials
  • Face recognition
  • Human memory
  • Intentional forgetting
  • Priming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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