Enhanced recognition of disgusted expressions occurs in spite of attentional avoidance at encoding

Tom Zalmenson*, Omer Azriel, Yair Bar-Haim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Negative emotional content is prioritized in memory. Prioritized attention to negative stimuli has been suggested to mediate this valence-memory association. However, research suggests only a limited role for attention in this observed memory advantage. We tested the role of attention in memory for disgusted facial expressions, a powerful social–emotional stimulus. Methods: We measured attention using an incidental, free-viewing encoding task and memory using a surprise memory test for the viewed expressions. Results and Discussion: Replicating prior studies, we found increased attentional dwell-time for neutral over disgusted expressions at encoding. However, contrary to the attention-memory link hypothesis, disgusted faces were better remembered than neutral faces. Although dwell-time was found to partially mediate the association between valence and memory, this effect was much weaker than the opposite direct effect. These findings point to independence of memory for disgusted faces from attention during encoding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1063073
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 4 Jan 2023


  • attention
  • disgust
  • emotion
  • facial expressions
  • memory


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