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Does Gender Affect Memory

Does Gender Affect Memory

Posted on Oct 2017

Memory forms an integral component of the functioning of human beings and without it, life would be a relentless struggle. Gender plays a significant role in the manner in which people remember. There is an assumption that females tend to remember better about past occurrences in comparison to males. McGeown (2012) asserts that females might attend to as well as encode more information during events, experience the same rate of forgetting and portray greater capacity to access reserved event information at recall. Sex difference is a significant aspect in explaining the manner in which the brain of male and female functions. There are four classes of memory for which gender differences have been often reported, that is; spatial, verbal, emotional and autobiographical memory. Memory is a behavioral area that is greatly influenced by gender differences. According to Efklides & Moraitou (2013), the content of memories is rebuilt over time in a fashion that is gendered. This is imperative in explaining as well as comprehending gender differences in memory. It also informs the theoretical debate regarding where within the memory formation process that these differences emerge. The influence of sex on the brain functions is ubiquitous. Sex influences on brain function are ubiquitous. There are documented differences between the genders at each level of neuroscience. In some cases, gender consideration might significantly alter or reverse conclusions regarding the functioning of the brain. This paper looks into whether gender differences have an influence of memory.

Historical Perspective: The 1885 Herman Ebbinghaus’s publication investigating the author’s individual memory is regarded as the origin of contemporary memory investigations. The recognition of gender differences in memory would later follow when a British Psychologist by the name Havelolock Ellis published a study on biological as well as sex differences in 1894 (Lowe, Mayfield & Reynolds, 2003). According to Ellis’ study, he made an observation about memory stating that the female mind is superior in the subject of memory. This is a perception that is shared by many contemporary scientific researchers relating to specific forms of memory, even though this superiority in memory is not evident in all types of memory. When it comes to memory, superiority of the different genders is evident in particular aspects of memory, for instance, where females tend to have a superior incidental memory of films/movies. Nevertheless, the two genders portray a significant degree of similarity in intellectual processes of memory, learning and perception. The rekindled interest currently on the subject of the influences of sex in memory seems to be driven mostly by neurobiological investigations that have identified many sex differences in the brain that relate to memory.

Literature Review

According to Association for Psychological Science (2008), there are a number of human characteristics that are considered to be predetermined genetically and which are evolutionarily innate, for instance, the strength of the immune system, physical adaptations as well as sex differences. Memory and emotions are constructs that have received significant attention in the psychology field.  The relationship that exist between memory and emotion has been studied  in many researches. These researches show that memory performance is improved for emotive material. The influences of gender differences are noted in psychological literature in language capabilities, memory, cognitive processing style, as well as neuropsychology. Significant sex differences are determined by psychologists in episodic memory, which is a typical long-term memory that is founded on personal experiences, which favors females more than males. Different study results show that females have an increased chance of excelling in verbal episodic memory activities like remembering words, pictures or daily occurrences, while male outperform females in recalling symbolic, non-linguistic information that is referred to as visuospatial processing. Additionally, other studies have found out that females perform better in comparison to males in activities that require little verbal processing, like recognition of accustomed smells, and that the advantage of females episodic memory increases when they utilize verbal capabilities while it decreases when visuospatial capabilities are needed. Whereas the likelihood of genetically-based variances pertaining to the memory quality of male and female remains indefinite, many studies suggest that females presently have an advantage when it comes to episodic memory. According to Lowe, Mayfield & Reynolds (2003), neuroimaging is able to reveal different neural networks that underlie task performance between the different genders, both for activities where performance differs as well as where performance is equivalent. Most significant is the increasing interest of memory where neurobiological investigations are carried out using animals where in some instances cultural explanations may not be able to explain the sex differences whereas in some cases it seem to disclose “sex specific” memory processes in the brain. McGeown (2012) tackles the central question on whether female’s superior memory for events that are personally experienced is as a result of the differences in the way men and women at first encode, retain, and later retrieve information about events in the brain.

According to Herlitz & Rehnman (1997), research shows that there are sex differences in the subject of episodic memory. Episodic memory refer to memory that relates to autobiographical events, that is, time, place, related emotions, as well as other contextual who, when and why knowledge that can be stated explicitly. It comprises of a collection of past experiences which took place at a particular time and place. These differences change in their magnitudes as a function of the kind of material to be recalled. All through the life span, verbal episodic memory errands yield contrasts favoring females. Interestingly, episodic memory assignments obliging visuospatial transforming result in contrasts favoring males. There are additionally sex contrasts favoring females on rambling memory errands obliging both verbal and visuospatial transforming and on face-distinguishment assignments. In this manner, there may be a little, general rambling memory advantage for ladies preference that can increment by the point of interest females have over men in verbal generation and can be switched by the male focal point in visuospatial errands. Also, natural variables influence the extent of the sex contrasts in episodic memory.

Methodology

In finding out whether gender has any influence on memory, this study utilized qualitative approach by reviewing the literature that is available on this field. Therefore, scholarly materials on research studies carried out on this subject were utilized so as to arrive at a conclusion.

Results

In most research studies carried out on the subject of gender and memory, there was an illustration of significant differences between the two genders on the items of manipulation. Most of the studies pointed out females as having a better memory than their male counterparts. In addition, males have a more likelihood of having Alzheimer disease.

Discussion

The aim of this paper was to look into the influences that gender has on memory. Most studies have shown that females possess a higher capacity to remember things. This is attributed to the fact that females structure their memories in a manner that is more integrated as well as less differentiated style, while men structure their memories in a manner that is more differentiated as well as less integrated.  Popovski & Bates (2005) assert that females can be able to carry out more feminine activities better as compared to males. Nevertheless, females can perform masculine tasks in a better way than the male can perform tasks that are non-masculine. This makes females to remember things such as names, shopping lists and conversations in a better way than males. On the contrary, males are superior in other tasks such as recalling of maps, directions, and appointments. Even though females have a better memory as compared to males, males tend to think logically whereas females think both logically and emotionally. This explains the reason why females have a more vulnerability than males to Alzheimer’s disease as compared to males. The existing huge differences in memory among the two sexes results from the fact that females have a different style of thinking from males. Therefore, females tend to recall more details whereas males are normally unable to remember specific details. Moreover, psychologists have found out that females are able to perform better than males in activities that require little or no verbal processing.

There is a general belief that females are much better at multi-tasking as compared to males. Multi-tasking entails carrying out different activities at once that would entail the utilization of short term memory. If females are actually better at multi-tasking than males, then it would appear that they as well have a superior short term memory. According to a study by Knox et al. (2015) on short term memory on the basis of gender, it was found out that gender has an influence on the short term memory. The males in this study provided a score of 21.2 percent on short term memory accuracy whereas their female counterparts scored a 61.1 percent in terms of accuracy of short term memory.

Role of Emotions in Memory: There are a lot of complexities that surround emotion which initiate the question as to whether emotions assist people to remember. Emotional content is very significant in determining the memory of people. It does not appear to be apparent as a common rule that people tend to remember events that are emotionally charged than those that are uninteresting. Research suggests that it is the aroused emotions and not the event’s personal significance that makes those events easier to be remembered. Females have a tendency of retaining a stronger emotional images as well as events at the cost of other information than males. Therefore, memories are generally treated contrarily depending on whether they are related with emotions that are pleasant or unpleasant. Specifically, emotions that are pleasant seem to fade at a slower rate from people’s memories whereas depressive and unpleasant fade slowly.

There are different ways in which males and females process emotional memories. Females are better when it comes to recalling emotional memories. They as well appear to have more ability to forget information that is presented prior to information that is emotionally charged. This shows that females are more influenced by emotional content- a proposition that is compatible with the result that females and males have a tendency to encode emotional experiences within distinct parts of the brain. In females, the evaluation of emotional experience as well as encoding of the memory is more tightly integrated.

Harness et al., 2008 – examined the gender differences in the working memory. This study was done in two different studies where investigation on gender differences in modal-specific components of working memory was carried out by using words as well as pictures as stimulants. The findings showed that the performance of males and females did not illustrate a significant difference in the non-distraction condition. Nevertheless, the distraction condition of females’ recall was considerably lower in the no-distraction condition as compared to the performance of males. The findings in this study are consistent with past research as well as point to gender differences in cognitive capacity putatively that result from functional neuroanatomical differences. On the other hand, females recorded a significantly higher recall on the task of visual working memory as compared to men.

Lowe, Mayfield & Reynolds (2003) examined 14 gender differences in a memory test performance in children and adults using different measures that relate to short term memory. In their study, they used a stratified sample containing 1,279 children and adolescents, where 637 were males and 642 of them were females. An assessment of the sample was carried out using 14 sub-tests of Test of Memory and Learning. The results from this study substantially supported the presence of general memory factor. In addition, the results as well suggested that the general memory factors as well as the different specific memory factors are equivalent in both genders. This implies that these factors are basically invariant across the gender nominal grouping. Since the underlying structure is the same for both the males and females in the TOMAL tests, these outcomes argue for a similar interpretation of the score for both males and females. The performance level for the females however was statistically considerably different from males in two sub-tests; Object Recall and Word Selective Reminding. These results are constant with the literature where females are reported to outdo males on tests of specific verbal abilities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, most of the studies carried out provides evidence that common perception that males outclass females at activities that involve spatial memory, whereas females illustrate an advantage when it comes to verbal memory. Nevertheless, under a close examination, this male advantage is not available for a set of spatial tasks such as object location as well as landmark-based navigation.  As a result, the gender differences appear to be specific for activities that involve the mental representation of space, especially of absolute direction. Effective studies on the matter of gender and the influence on memory should be carried out so as to determine the gender that is superior in different types of memory.