The own-age bias in face memory is unrelated to differences in attention—Evidence from event-related potentials

  • Markus F. NeumannEmail author
  • Albert End
  • Stefanie Luttmann
  • Stefan R. Schweinberger
  • Holger Wiese


Participants are more accurate at remembering faces from their own relative to a different age group (the own-age bias, or OAB). A recent socio-cognitive account has suggested that differential allocation of attention to old versus young faces underlies this phenomenon. Critically, empirical evidence for a direct relationship between attention to own- versus other-age faces and the OAB in memory is lacking. To fill this gap, we tested the roles of attention in three different experimental paradigms, and additionally analyzed event-related brain potentials (ERPs). In Experiment 1, we compared the learning of old and young faces during focused versus divided attention, but revealed similar OABs in subsequent memory for both attention conditions. Similarly, manipulating attention during learning did not differentially affect the ERPs elicited by young versus old faces. In Experiment 2, we examined the repetition effects from task-irrelevant old and young faces presented under varying attentional loads on the N250r ERP component as an index of face recognition. Independent of load, the N250r effects were comparable for both age categories. Finally, in Experiment 3 we measured the N2pc as an index of attentional selection of old versus young target faces in a visual search task. The N2pc was not significantly different for the young versus the old target search conditions, suggesting similar orientations of attention to either face age group. Overall, we propose that the OAB in memory is largely unrelated to early attentional processes. Our findings therefore contrast with the predictions from socio-cognitive accounts on own-group biases in recognition memory, and are more easily reconciled with expertise-based models.


Attention Face Age ERP Own-age bias Other-age effect 


Author note

Experiments 1 and 2 were funded by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to H.W. and S.R.S. (Wi 3219/5-2). Experiment 3 was supported by a grant from Friedrich Schiller University to M.F.N. We thank Kathrin Rauscher for her help in data collection.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus F. Neumann
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
    Email author
  • Albert End
    • 4
  • Stefanie Luttmann
    • 3
  • Stefan R. Schweinberger
    • 1
    • 5
  • Holger Wiese
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of General PsychologyFriedrich Schiller University of JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its DisordersUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyWestern Australia
  3. 3.Department of General PsychologyFriedrich Schiller University of JenaJenaGermany
  4. 4.DFG Research Unit Person PerceptionFriedrich Schiller University of JenaJenaGermany
  5. 5.ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its DisordersUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyWestern Australia
  6. 6.School of PsychologyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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