Look who's talking! Facial appearance can bias source monitoring

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When we see a stranger's face we quickly form impressions of his or her personality, and expectations of how the stranger might behave. Might these intuitive character judgements bias source monitoring? Participants read headlines "reported" by a trustworthy- and an untrustworthy-looking reporter. Subsequently, participants recalled which reporter provided each headline. Source memory for likely-sounding headlines was most accurate when a trustworthy-looking reporter had provided the headlines. Conversely, source memory for unlikely-sounding headlines was most accurate when an untrustworthy-looking reporter had provided the headlines. This bias appeared to be driven by the use of decision criteria during retrieval rather than differences in memory encoding. Nevertheless, the bias was apparently unrelated to variations in subjective confidence. These results show for the first time that intuitive, stereotyped judgements of others' appearance can bias memory attributions analogously to the biases that occur when people receive explicit information to distinguish sources. We suggest possible real-life consequences of these stereotype-driven source-monitoring biases.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-457
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Early online date19 Apr 2010
StatePublished - 2010


  • attribution bias, facial appearance, source monitoring, stereotype

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