Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Lisa J. Rapport


Introduction: Memory for emotions expressed by others forms the continuity that characterizes unique and intimate relationships. Successful memory for facial expressions requires the ability to remember the identity of the face (who showed the emotion) as well as the emotion (which emotion they showed). People with acquired brain injuries (ABI) frequently have problems with social cognition, which involves understanding cues that communicate emotional and interpersonal information. ABI is commonly associated with trouble perceiving emotional expressions and recognizing the identity of faces; however, research on memory for emotions after ABI is sparse. This study examined cognitive and emotional characteristics that contribute to face emotion processing and psychometric properties of tests that assess those phenomena among adults with and without history of ABI.

Method: 115 adults with ABI and 116 neurologically healthy (NH) adults completed tests of attention, memory, and processing speed, as well as self-report measures of mood and emotional functioning. Emotion perception, face recognition, and memory for emotions were assessed with the Multicultural Facial Emotion Perception Test (MFEPT), Warrington Recognition Memory Test (RMT), and Multicultural Facial Recognition Test, (MCFR), respectively. Rasch analyses evaluated psychometric properties of the MFEPT, RMT, and MCFR.

Results: ABI participants performed worse than NH participants on the MFEPT, RMT, and MCFR, even after accounting for component cognitive skills, mood, and experienced emotions. Diagnostic group moderated the effect of mood on the MFEPT, MCFR, and RMT: experienced negative affect (symptoms of depression and anxiety) facilitated performance among NH adults but hindered performance among adults with ABI. Rasch analyses characterized the psychometric profiles of the tasks and informed ways to improve the measurement of emotion processing.

Conclusions: Memory for emotions appears to be a unique area of impairment following ABI. Adults with ABI may have difficulty differentiating their own emotions from the emotions of others, which in turn may disrupt their perception and memory of emotions. Improved measurement guided by item response theory can enhance understanding of emotion processing. Nuanced assessment of emotion perception and memory can be used to guide targeted interventions, which may improve social cognition following ABI.