Motivated social memory: Belonging needs moderate the own-group bias in face recognition

Jay J. Van Bavel, Jillian K. Swencionis, Rachel C. O'Connor, William A. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current research examines why people have superior recognition memory for own-group members compared to other-group members. In two studies, we provide evidence for one motivational mechanism underlying own-group bias-social belonging needs. In Study 1, participants assigned to a minimal group had superior memory for own-group compared to other-group faces, replicating previous research on the own-group bias. This pattern was moderated by participants' need to belong: participants who reported a higher (versus lower) need to belong showed greater own-group memory bias. In Study 2, participants who were socially excluded had superior memory for own-university compared to other-university faces than participants who were selected to work alone by a computer. Together, these studies suggest that chronic belonging needs and social exclusion motivate own-group bias (124 words).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-713
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Face perception
  • Intergroup
  • Memory
  • Motivation
  • Need to belong
  • Ostracism
  • Own-group bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Motivated social memory: Belonging needs moderate the own-group bias in face recognition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this