Using two exclusion tasks, the present study examined how the ERP correlates of face recognition are affected by the nature of the information to be retrieved. Intrinsic (facial expression) and extrinsic (background scene) visual information were paired with face identity and constituted the exclusion criterion at test time. Although perceptual information had to be taken into account in both situations, the FN400 old-new effect was observed only for old target faces on the expression-exclusion task, whereas it was found for both old target and old non-target faces in the background-exclusion situation. These results reveal that the FN400, which is generally interpreted as a correlate of familiarity, was modulated by the retrieval of intra-item and intrinsic face information, but not by the retrieval of extrinsic information. The observed effects on the FN400 depended on the nature of the information to be retrieved and its relationship (unitization) to the recognition target. On the other hand, the parietal old-new effect (generally described as an ERP correlate of recollection) reflected the retrieval of both types of contextual features equivalently. The current findings are discussed in relation to recent controversies about the nature of the recognition processes reflected by the ERP correlates of face recognition. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.