Recognition Hypermnesia: Can It Be Achieved Despite the Own-Race Bias?

by Scott Taylor

Hypermnesia is an improvement in memory over repeated testing, without additional rehearsal. While recall recognition has been examined, little research has looked at recognition hypemnesia, and no studies have explored hypermnesia for faces, and faces of outgroup members in particular. In a standard recognition paradigm, participants were presented at study with 30 photographs of faces of outgroup members, each photograph paired with individual names; at test, on three successive testing trials 60 photographs (30 previously seen and 30 new, serving as foils) of outgroup members were seen. Results indicated no hypermnesia for outgroup faces. Analysis of hits and d’ (a measure of recognition sensitivity) indicated no increase in recognition accuracy over trials; in fact, evidence of amnesia was found. There was also an increase in false alarms, and a decrease in response bias across trials, which suggests that participants had a weak memory trace of outgroup faces, which implies that while participants were looking at the stimuli, they were not elaborately encoding the stimuli as the faces were being processed. Absence of hypermnesia effects were inconsistent with Bergstein & Erdelyi’s (2008) two factor model of recognition hypermnesia but consistent with research on own group biases in face recognition.