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Éva M. Bankó, Viktor Gál, Zoltán Vidnyánszky; Flawless visual short-term memory for facial emotional expressions. Journal of Vision 2009;9(1):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/9.1.12.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Facial emotions are important cues of human social interactions. Emotional expressions are continuously changing and thus should be monitored, memorized, and compared from time to time during social intercourse. However, it is not known how efficiently emotional expressions can be stored in short-term memory. Here we show that emotion discrimination is not impaired when the faces to be compared are separated by several seconds, requiring storage of fine-grained emotion-related information in short-term memory. Likewise, we found no significant effect of increasing the delay between the sample and the test face in the case of facial identity discrimination. Furthermore, a second experiment conducted on a large subject sample ( N = 160) revealed flawless short-term memory for both facial emotions and facial identity also when observers performed the discrimination tasks only twice with novel faces. We also performed an fMRI experiment, which confirmed that discrimination of fine-grained emotional expressions in our experimental paradigm involved processing of high-level facial emotional attributes. Significantly stronger fMRI responses were found in a cortical network—including the posterior superior temporal sulcus—that is known to be involved in processing of facial emotional expression during emotion discrimination than during identity discrimination. These findings reveal flawless, high-resolution visual short-term memory for emotional expressions, which might underlie efficient monitoring of continuously changing facial emotions.
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