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: Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How new social movements take root

Sep 24, 2014

Contemporary movements, such as those initiated after the recent shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., can be born seemingly overnight in the digital age. UA researchers point to several factors.

Do women talk more than men? It depends

Jul 16, 2014

We've all heard the stereotype: Women like to talk. We bounce ideas off each other about everything from career moves to dinner plans. We hash out big decisions through our conversations with one another ...

3Qs: Gender balance in biomedical research

May 30, 2014

Earlier this month the National Institutes of Health announced that going forward all biomedical research funded by the NIH must represent a balanced sample of both male and female test subjects. We asked ...

Guns aren't the only things killing cops

Apr 11, 2014

The public does not realize—in fact, police themselves may not realize—that the dangers police officers are exposed to on a daily basis are far worse than anything on "Law and Order."

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

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.