Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Stefan Kohler


Previous research has suggested that there may be an increase in positive affect and autonomic arousal in response to seeing a familiar face. These studies rarely distinguish between faces for which there is only a “feeling” of familiarity, and faces for which this feeling is accompanied by the retrieval of semantic knowledge about the individual. In the current study we aimed to make that distinction. Participants made recognition judgments on famous and non-famous faces while galvanic skin responses (GSR), zygomatic muscle activity, and heart rate (HR) were recorded. We found increases in GSR (autonomic arousal), and zygomatic muscle activity (positive affect) for faces that were accompanied by semantic-access. These results suggest that the positive affective signal may be generated as a result of retrieving semantic information about a face, rather than as a result of some other mechanism, such as processing fluency.