And like that, they were gone: A failure to remember recently attended unique faces

Joyce Tam, Michael K. Mugno, Ryan E. O’Donnell, Brad Wyble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Attribute amnesia (AA) is a phenomenon in which participants have difficulty answering an unexpected question about an attended attribute of the most recent target stimulus. A similar situation can occur in cases of real-life eyewitness identification when the eyewitness did not explicitly try to remember the alleged perpetrator’s face despite having attended to it. We found that AA is generalizable to novel faces, such that when participants were unexpectedly asked to identify a face, performance was poor, even though they had just attended to that face seconds ago (N = 40 each in an initial experiment and its replication). This finding shows that unexpected face identification is inaccurate even when the face had just been attended to and suffered minimal decay and interference, implying that AA can explain some cases of failure of eyewitness identification that cannot be attributed to a lack of attention or post-event interference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2027-2034
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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