Adaptive memory: Source memory for mates is primarily determined by emotional evaluation

Joshua E VanArsdall, Purdue University


This project reviews research on sex differences, mate preferences, and their relevance to human memory, then performs two experiments to explore the effects of functionally relevant priorities in human mating on source memory. Three primary hypotheses are investigated: (1) whether source memory is preferentially sensitive to fitness-relevant information, and if that preference is specific to other-sexed faces, (2) whether source memory differs between men and women for attributes that are better indicators of mate quality for a single sex (i.e., wealth level among men), and (3) if evidence for a bias to remember mate-competition-relevant information is found in source memory. Experiment 1 explores the first point, while Experiment 2 examines points two and three. Though many of these predictions are disconfirmed overall, strength of emotional evaluation of faces at encoding is established as a significant predictor of later source memory for mating-relevant information (as predicted by Bell & Buchner, 2011), though importantly not the only one. Strength of emotional evaluation is therefore proposed to explain a large portion of variance in source memory for faces in general.




Nairne, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Experimental psychology|Cognitive psychology

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