Faces of identities similar to the viewer (race, age, gender, class) tend to be remembered better by the viewer. The underlying mechanisms for a memory bias toward different socioeconomic contexts were investigated with a perceptual face priming task and EEG. Prejudice, the beliefs or attitudes held towards a particular group of peoples, was additionally examined in an attempt to draw connections between memory biases and prejudice. The Affective Lexical Priming Score (ALPS) was used to test implicit, or subconscious, prejudice. The ALPS failed to show the predicted prejudice towards rich and poor contexts, and instead showed an overall positivity bias, which meant faster reaction times to positive stimuli. While prejudice was not found from the ALPS, the reaction times reflected and supported the effects found in the event-related potentials (ERPs) analyzed to examine the perceptual memory bias. ERP components showed no effect of socioeconomic status (SES) during early visual processing (N170), but during memory-related stages of face processing (N250r and N400). Participants overall showed increased N250r amplitudes in response to faces on rich context pictures, and there was a negative correlation between N400 activity for faces on poor context pictures and the SES of the participant. These results indicate that the SES of the participant affected perceptual memory in that subjects were more familiar with, and had more semantic associations for context pictures similar to their own SES. These results merit future exploration of the effects of class status on face processing.


Herzmann, Grit




Cognitive Neuroscience | Cognitive Psychology | Social Psychology


social neuroscience, socioeconomic status, prejudice, memory

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Gillian Spangler