The Rapid Forgetting of Faces

Dana Krill, Galia Avidan, Yoni Pertzov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


How are faces forgotten? Studies examining forgetting in visual working memory (VWM) typically use simple visual features; however, in ecological scenarios, VWM typically contains complex objects. Given their significance in everyday functioning and their visual complexity, here we investigated how upright and inverted faces are forgotten within a few seconds, focusing on the raw errors that accompany such forgetting and examining their characteristics. In three experiments we found that longer retention intervals increased the size of errors. This effect was mainly accounted for by a larger proportion of random errors - suggesting that forgetting of faces reflects decreased accessibility of the memory representations over time. On the other hand, longer retention intervals did not modulate the precision of recall - suggesting that forgetting does not affect the precision of accessible memory representation. Thus, when upright and inverted faces are forgotten there is a complete failure to access them or a complete collapse of their memory representation. In contrast to the effect of retention interval (i.e., forgetting), face inversion led to larger errors that were mainly associated with decreased precision of recall. This effect was not modulated by the duration of the retention interval, and was observed even when memory was not required in the task. Therefore, upright faces are remembered more precisely compared to inverted ones due to perceptual, rather than mnemonic processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1319
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 27 Jul 2018


  • face inversion effect
  • face perception
  • face recognition
  • forgetting
  • visual short-term memory
  • visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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