Investigating the Roles of Implicit and Explicit Facial Memory in Social Exchange

Evolutionary psychology assumes that humans evolved specialized cognitive mechanisms in response to specific adaptive problems. Models of social exchange and reciprocity have led to the prediction that humans are equipped with cognitive capacity for enhanced facial memory of social exchange opponents and their social exchange strategy. Early research found enhanced memory for cheaters in social exchange while more recent research indicates enhanced memory for both cheaters and cooperators compared to those faces irrelevant to social exchange. The majority of research regarding the facial recognition module has utilized a third-party reputation information design (description paradigm) rather than the first-person experience design (involvement paradigm) more relevant to the models of direct social exchange. Further, the existing body of research has focused largely on explicit measures of facial memory for faces of cooperators and defectors. However, some research has suggested the memory module may operate implicitly. The present study utilized a first-person experience/involvement paradigm to investigate implicit memory for faces in social exchange. Results revealed that the pattern of faces selected in an implicit memory task differed significantly from the selection pattern observed in the explicit memory task. Further, the difference in the selection of cheaters versus cooperators was significantly larger in the implicit task than in the explicit task. These results provide evidence that implicit memory affects future decision making in regard to social exchange and is a more sensitive measure of memory for faces in social exchange compared to explicit memory.