The generality of the attentional boost effect for famous, unfamiliar, and inverted faces

Gavin W. Oliver, Vanessa G. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Familiarity and face inversion not only affect face recognition and memory but also influence attention. Face processing is less attention-demanding for familiar than for unfamiliar faces and for upright than for inverted faces. The automaticity raises the question of how face processing interacts with an increase in attention. Using a dual-task paradigm, we tested the interaction between attention and face familiarity and orientation. Participants encoded a series of faces to memory while simultaneously monitoring a stream of colored squares, pressing the space bar for target-colored squares and making no response to distractor-colored squares. Replicating previous findings of the attentional boost effect (ABE), we found that faces encoded with target squares were better remembered than faces encoded with distractor squares. If the automatic nature of familiar (or upright) face processing makes attention unnecessary, then the attentional boost should be attenuated for familiar relative to unfamiliar faces and for upright relative to inverted faces. Data from three experiments showed, however, that the ABE was the same for all types of faces. These results suggest that target detection did not simply elevate attention in an early encoding phase. Rather, selecting targets and rejecting distractors in the color task may have led to yoked temporal selection of target-concurrent faces for entry into memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2023.


  • Dual-task processing
  • Face memory
  • Temporal attention
  • The attentional boost effect

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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