This study examined emotional influences on the hypothesized event-related potential (ERP) correlates of familiarity and recollection (Experiment 1) and the states of awareness (Experiment 2) accompanying recognition memory for faces differing in facial affect. Participants made gender judgments to positive, negative, and neutral faces at study and were in the test phase instructed to discriminate between studied and nonstudied faces. Whereas old–new discrimination was unaffected by facial expression, negative faces were recollected to a greater extent than both positive and neutral faces as reflected in the parietal ERP old–new effect and in the proportion of remember judgments. Moreover, emotion-specific modulations were observed in frontally recorded ERPs elicited by correctly rejected new faces that concurred with a more liberal response criterion for emotional as compared to neutral faces. Taken together, the results are consistent with the view that processes promoting recollection are facilitated for negative events and that emotion may affect recognition performance by influencing criterion setting mediated by the prefrontal cortex.

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