Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from one midline and three pairs of lateral sites while subjects made same/different judgements on sequentially presented pairs of familiar or unfamiliar faces. During the interval between the first and second face, a slow wave was more negative-going over the right than the left hemisphere, particularly when the faces were familiar. Following the second face, two regions of the waveforms were more negative-going when this face did not match the identity of its predecessor. In the early region (< 160 msec), this effect was confined to posterior electrode sites and familiar faces. In the later region (> 250 msec), the match/non-match effect was widespread across the scalp and was evident for both familiar and non-familiar faces, although in the latency range 350-450 msec (encompassing the "N400" component), it was greater in magnitude in the case of familiar stimuli. It is suggested that the slow wave asymmetries reflect the engagement of short-term memory mechanisms lateralized to the right hemisphere. The match/non-match differences are thought to reflect multiple processes, including the modulation of the "N400" component. The sensitivity of this component to the familiarity manipulation is consistent with the hypothesis that the amplitude of N400 reflects an item's compatibility with currently activated memory representations.