Does imitation enhance memory for faces? Four converging studies. Academic Article uri icon


  • Four multimethod studies probed the hypothesis, derived from the Zajonc-Markus motor theory of emotion, that facial recognition is enhanced by imitation of the faces. In all studies, participants were (a) randomly assigned to imitate or to concentrate on a set of faces presented on slides; (b) covertly videotaped, or measured for facial electromyographic responses, to assess facial motor responsiveness; (c) asked to recognize faces previously seen from a larger set; and (d) asked to complete individual difference measures relevant to imitation or memory. The major dependent variable was the percentage of faces accurately recognized. Across variations in procedure, persons who initially imitated faces later recognized fewer faces than did persons in various control conditions. No evidence was found for individual difference moderators of this general conclusion. Results call into question the adequacy of the Zajonc-Markus motoric theory explanation of memory for faces.

published proceedings

  • J Pers Soc Psychol

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Graziano, W. G., Smith, S. M., Tassinary, L. G., Sun, C. R., & Pilkington, C.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Graziano, WG||Smith, SM||Tassinary, LG||Sun, CR||Pilkington, C

publication date

  • November 1996