The Effect of Arousal on Facial Recognition

John C. Brigham, Anne Maass, David Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated the effects of arousal on facial recognition. It was hypothesized that recognition accuracy would decrease as self-reported wousal increased. Arousal was manipulated through the presence/absence of electrical shock. Because self-reports of arousal differed significantly across the two conditions for female subjects but not for males, only the data from females were used. As predicted, recognition accuracy was lower in the high arousal condition than in the moderate arousal condition. Some evidence of an own-sex bias was found but no own-race bias was observed. About onethird of all subjects showed a significant positive relationship between recognition accuracy and degree of confidence in their judgments. Averaged across subjects, the relationship between confidence and accuracy was small but statistically significant. Implications of these findings for highly-arousing crime situations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-293
Number of pages15
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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