Neural correlates of the in-group memory advantage on the encoding and recognition of faces

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People have a memory advantage for faces that belong to the same group, for example, that attend the same university or have the same personality type. Faces from such in-group members are assumed to receive more attention during memory encoding and are therefore recognized more accurately. Here we use event-related potentials related to memory encoding and retrieval to investigate the neural correlates of the in-group memory advantage. Using the minimal group procedure, subjects were classified based on a bogus personality test as belonging to one of two personality types. While the electroencephalogram was recorded, subjects studied and recognized faces supposedly belonging to the subject's own and the other personality type. Subjects recognized in-group faces more accurately than out-group faces but the effect size was small. Using the individual behavioral in-group memory advantage in multivariate analyses of covariance, we determined neural correlates of the in-group advantage. During memory encoding (300 to 1000 ms after stimulus onset), subjects with a high in-group memory advantage elicited more positive amplitudes for subsequently remembered in-group than out-group faces, showing that in-group faces received more attention and elicited more neural activity during initial encoding. Early during memory retrieval (300 to 500 ms), frontal brain areas were more activated for remembered in-group faces indicating an early detection of group membership. Surprisingly, the parietal old/new effect (600 to 900 ms) thought to indicate recollection processes differed between in-group and out-group faces independent from the behavioral in-group memory advantage. This finding suggests that group membership affects memory retrieval independent of memory performance. Comparisons with a previous study on the other-race effect, another memory phenomenon influenced by social classification of faces, suggested that the in-group memory advantage is dominated by top-down processing whereas the other-race effect is also influenced by extensive perceptual experience. © 2013 Herzmann, Curran.




Herzmann, G., & Curran, T. (2013). Neural correlates of the in-group memory advantage on the encoding and recognition of faces. PLoS ONE, 8(12).

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