Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type



Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Tim Curran


The present study examined the effect of gaze direction on people’s recognition memory for faces. Gaze direction (direct or averted) and gaze manipulation phase (encoding or retrieval) were the main variables analyzed to determine if gaze direction affects the encoding or retrieval of faces. Based on previous research, the hypothesis was that direct gaze would lead to stronger memory for faces than averted gaze. It was also predicted that when gaze was manipulated at encoding, gaze effects would be stronger than when gaze was manipulated at retrieval. Subjects made age judgments about faces while viewing them three times, and were later tested on their memory for those faces. The results of Experiment 1 confirmed the direct gaze advantage over averted, although this was not the case across each and every condition. After analyzing the results of Experiment 1, Experiment 2 was designed to address a possible effect identified in Experiment 1. The order in which subjects completed two separate parts of the experiment seemed to play a role in modulating gaze effects in Experiment 1. Experiment 2 aimed at addressing this possible effect, but the results were less conclusive with no significant advantages identified. Combined analysis of parts of both experiments identified an overall advantage for direct gaze over averted, confirming the majority of previous research. No effect of gaze manipulation phase was identified overall, leaving room for further investigation of the gaze manipulation phase variable’s role in facial memory processes.