Total, genetically-based recall

Feb 20, 2008

There are several human characteristics considered to be genetically predetermined and evolutionarily innate, such as immune system strength, physical adaptations and even sex differences. These qualities drive the nature versus nurture debate and ask of our species, who is more successful and why?

Psychologists Agneta Herlitz and Jenny Rehnman in Stockholm, Sweden asked an even more complicated question of human predisposition: Does one’s sex influence his or her ability to remember everyday events? Their surprising findings did in fact determine significant sex differences in episodic memory, a type of long-term memory based on personal experiences, favoring women.

Specific results indicated that women excelled in verbal episodic memory tasks, such as remembering words, objects, pictures or everyday events, and men outperformed women in remembering symbolic, non-linguistic information, known as visuospatial processing. For example, the results indicate a man would be more likely to remember his way out of the woods.

However, there are also sex differences favoring women on tasks such as remembering the location of car keys, which requires both verbal and visuospatial processing.

“In addition, women are better than men at remembering faces, especially of females,” described Herlitz and Rehnman, “and the reason seems to be that women allocate more attention to female than to male faces.”

To determine this particular finding, the psychologists presented three groups of participants with black and white pictures of hairless, androgynous faces and described them as ‘female faces,’ ‘male faces’ or just ‘faces.’ The findings, which appear in the February 2008 edition of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicate that women were able to remember the androgynous faces presented as female more accurately than the androgynous faces presented as male.

In additional studies, psychologists also discovered that women perform better than men in tasks requiring little to no verbal processing, such as recognition of familiar odors, and that the female episodic memory advantage increases when women utilize verbal abilities and decreases when visuospatial abilities are required. Environmental factors, such as education, seem to influence the magnitude of these sex differences, as well.

While the probability of genetically-based differences between the quality of male and female memory remains unknown, the results suggest that females currently hold the advantage in episodic memory.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Early caregiving experiences have long-term effects on social relationships, achievement

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Washington takes on Uber with its own taxi app

8 hours ago

Washington is developing a smartphone app to enable its taxis to compete head-on with Uber and other ride-sharing services, the US capital's taxi commission said Friday.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in living color

8 hours ago

Rosetta's OSIRIS team have produced a color image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it would be seen by the human eye. As anticipated, the comet turns out to be very grey indeed, with only slight, subtle ...

EU clean air, waste laws at risk

8 hours ago

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker faces a clash with lawmakers after leaked documents Friday revealed his plans to drop laws on clean air and waste recycling.

Recommended for you

Despite risks, benzodiazepine use highest in older people

14 hours ago

Prescription use of benzodiazepines—a widely used class of sedative and anti-anxiety medications—increases steadily with age, despite the known risks for older people, according to a comprehensive analysis of benzodiazepine ...

Why some antidepressants may initially worsen symptoms

18 hours ago

New research helps explain a paradoxical effect of certain antidepressants—that they may actually worsen symptoms before helping patients feel better. The findings, highlighted in a paper publishing online December 17 in ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.