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Gender Factor Affecting Memory Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2021

Introduction

Many attempts have been made to understand the relationship between memory and whether gender plays any role in this aspect. Memory refers to one’s ability to recall certain past events or knowledge. It calls for mental construction where the brain employs a notable process of reshuffle which in turn digs out both specific and general information about all experiences (Baddeley, 1999). Memory can be divided into two major categories. There is the short-term which is also known as working or recent memory and long-term memory. As the names suggest, long-term memory recovers the more distant memories while short-term recalls the memories of the recent past which had not been memorized. Memory therefore plays a great role in any conversation process since it involves a lot of recall process. Researchers have performed many experiments with an aim of finding out if there is any difference between the ability of men and women to recall past or recent events and various answers and observations have been put forward. This paper seeks to thematically synthesize, summarize, and critically evaluate ten different researches that have been made towards understanding whether gender does affect memory. It will also provide suggestions for future studies in this area.

Synthesis and Summary

In the book, ‘Gender and Memory,’ the authors, Leydesdorf, Passerini, and Thompson (2005), point out that there is a significant difference in memories for narrative speech between men and women. The researchers conducted several studies among the white working and middle-class kids and grown ups from a variety of sites. The findings indicated that females frequently use far much more reported speech compared to men in their day to day personal narratives. During story telling sessions, the authors say, women in general will always include what someone else once said. Hence they argue that in speech, which is the most commonly used mode of communication is present in the past that females exhibit than in the case of males. Reported speech, according to the authors, can be classified into three major categories. They include; direct, indirect and narratized speech. The researchers noted that both the theoretical and empirical accounts argue in opposition to the idea that any given form of reported speech is necessarily based on a precise recall of past occasion of speech. They concluded that gender difference does affect personal narratives and is necessary the ability to remembering conversations of the past.

In their journal, Andersson and Jan (2001) discusses the effect of memory collaboration in relation to gender. They conducted the study to investigate the explicit verbal and collaborative memory performance. In the experiment, they studied gender differences in two memory tasks that were explicit. They focused on gender differences at group and individual level. Their findings indicated that gender differences exist on an individual level in terms of absolute scores. Women, according to the authors, remember memory tasks which are explicit in nature to a much greater degree as compared to their male counterparts. They, however, found that gender collaboration had no effect on memory. Both genders suffered equally in relation to the predicted potential.

The ability to locate objects demands that one must have an exceptionally sharp memory. Object-location memory, according to De Goede and Postma (2008), is the one and only spatial task that women subjects do outperform their male counterparts. In conducting the research, they had to relocate objects on a daily basis to different environments. Separate object identification was carried out among the genders. The experiment further focused on the circumstances under which locations of objects were encoded as well as retrieved (De Goede & Postma, 2008). The authors employed the investigation of both the explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious) retrieval ability. The findings of this study revealed that females perform much better than males on memory task involving object location. Generally, both genders had less implicit recollection compared to explicit recollection.

Many of the studies, as we have seen above agree that gender differences exist for a number of cognitive tasks and it has been suggested that estrogen plays a role in influencing these differences. In their research, Yonkera, J.E., Eriksson, E., Nilssona, L. and Herlitz, A. (2003), investigated eighteen women and eighteen men in terms of age and Estradiol level. They investigated various areas of potential sex difference. These included the assessment in episodic memory, verbal fluency, semantic memory, visuospatial ability, and problem solving. Episodic memory elicited significant gender differences favoring women.

Alcohol consumption has effect on the ability of human beings to recall events. However, studies have shown that this impact is gender dependent. A research conducted by Yonkera, et al. (2005), revealed that alcoholism has an impact on cognitive deficits, memory function, and visuospatial ability depending on the amount consumed and sex differences. Their argument on the results supported the belief that moderate drinking of alcohol could be beneficial to females’ cognitive function but not in their male counterparts.

Gender differences in explicit and implicit memory have been studied extensively by many researchers. Burton, L., Rabin, L., Vardy, S., Frohlich, J., Wyatt, G., Dimitri, D., et al. (2004), carried out a research in this line to investigate if there is a significant difference in sex and the two categories of memory. They found that females were well of when it comes to explicit memory as compared to their male counterparts.

Multitasking demands high degree level in memory for proper execution. Ramsey, N., Jansma, J., Jager, G., Van Raalten, T., & Kahn, R. (2004), conducted a research to investigate the validity of this matter. They realized that several parts of the brain have to be used in executing the tasks. The ability to work out cognitive tasks simultaneously was highly rated in females than in males.

Cognitive differences between men and women could have been the reason why females participate minimally in science disciplines. Baddeley (1999) investigated the spatial and verbal working memory for 15 males and 48 females. His findings revealed that males have both a large spatial memory and a large verbal memory.

Research has developed both on visuo-spatial representation and mental imagery over the past few years. This has also led to the understanding of other concepts like working memory and executive processes. Cornoldi and Vecchi (2003) conducted an experiment to investigate the role of gender in relation to visuo-spatial and memory. These researchers have deeply described the recent researches into memory for mental manipulation. The authors concluded that males perform better than females when it comes to visuo-spatial working memory.

Numerous attempts have been made to describe the role of sex hormones in connection with memory. For instance, studies have shown that replacement of verbal memory in women serves to improve their verbal memory. Janowsky, Chavez, and Orwoll (2000), sought to investigate the role of sex steroid in affecting the working memory and whether supplementing sex steroid affects memory. From their findings, supplementation of testosterone in older men improved their working memory but it was not the case when estrogen was supplemented in older women. Without the hormone supplementation, the working memory of older subjects was worse as compared to younger ones and there was no gender difference in this case.

Evaluation

The research by Leydesdorf, et al. (2005) is very significant in understanding how females differ in how they communicate especially when it comes to personal narratives. The authors succeed in elucidating these since there are different types of reported speech. Their findings are acceptable so far as they concern personal narratives or the reported speech. The researchers used the qualitative method for their study and they sampled a section of the population. This may have led to inaccurate conclusion from the findings since the use of a single method of research has its inherent weaknesses. For instance the research that they conducted on a select group of people cannot warrant the generalization of the findings. The conclusions are specific to the particular group of people that were studied. Still on the verbal dimension, studies have revealed that the sex hormones play a great role in enhancing verbal memory among women. These, however is in contrast with the findings by Janowsky, et al. (2000) which annuls the thought that sex hormones improves the memory of females. We can therefore conclude that most researchers should use both qualitative and quantitative methods of research in order to enable the generalization of the findings without loosing the accuracy.

On the theme of gender and memory collaboration, Anderson and Jan (2001) succeed in drawing the relationship between them. It is reliable to rate memory performance at individual level as opposed to studying a large group of people because in a group, many factors will contribute to the general outcome which may not be related to memory. The focus of this study is unique in that the rest of the studies share common themes. The question that remains is whether research can still be conducted to establish the impact of memory collaboration since it cannot be out rightly dismissed.

The study on the effect of implicit and explicit memory was a well selected one. This is because memory is necessary for someone to locate objects or retrieve them. The finding that females have much greater explicit or conscious retrieval ability is agreeable since the environment used for the research was new to both genders. Object retrieval involves a lot of cognitive tasks and as De Goede and Postma (2008) observes, it is the only one that females out do their male counterparts. This is because if a study was conducted on geographical aspects, then males would out perform females. More research has to be done on Three-dimensional aspects, for instance the interpretation of diagrams, maps, and other aspects requiring a lot of comprehension.

One of the most comprehensive studies that have been done in the field of gender and memory is by Yonkera, et al. (2003). They focused on sensitive themes which included episodic memory, semantic memory, visuo-spatial ability, problem solving, and verbal influence. They handled most of the fields that had already been dealt with by other researchers. Out of all these studies, they were able to establish that episodic memory had greater gender dependence. This claim can be refuted by the findings of researchers like Cornoldi and Vecchi (2003). Yonkera, et al. (2005) argued that use of alcohol does affect the calling to memory of events but depends on gender and amount used. Additional research should be conducted on the influence of drugs on memory and whether it depends on gender.

The clear difference between these studies is mainly on their choice of themes although some shared them. The other difference is on the methods of conducting their research. Qualitative, qualitative and also mixed methods were used by different researchers.

Conclusion

This paper has presented a literature review of available materials that focus on the study question, ‘does gender affect memory?’ most of the work covered centered on major themes such as; verbal memory, visuo-spatial memory, perception towards science subjects, multitasking and memory, episodic memory, and impact of sex hormones on memory. It has also offered an evaluation of the literature covered and proposed some of the additional studies that need to be done within the same study question.

References

Andersson, M. & Jan (2001). Net Effect of Memory Collaboration: How Is Collaboration Affected By Factors Such As Friendship, Gender And Age? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. 2001, vol. 42 (4) pp. 367, 9p.

Baddeley, A. D. (1999). Essentials of Human Memory. East Sussex, England: Psychology Press Ltd.

Burton, L., Rabin, L., Vardy, S., Frohlich, J., Wyatt, G., Dimitri, D., et al. (2004). Gender Differences in Implicit and Explicit Memory for Affective Passages. Brain & Cognition, 54(3), 218-224.

Cornoldi, C. and Vecchi, T. (2003). Visuo-Spatial Working Memory and Individual Differences. Psychology Press.

De Goede, M., & Postma, A. (2008). Gender Differences in Memory for Objects and Their Locations: A Study on Automatic versus Controlled Encoding and Retrieval Contexts. Brain & Cognition, 66(3), 232-242.

Janowsky, J., Chavez, B. and Orwoll, E. (2000). The Effects of Sex Steroids on Working Memory. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. MIT Press, vol. 12(3), pp. 408-415.

Leydesdorff, S., Passerini, L. & Thompson, R. P. (2005). Gender and Memory. Transaction Plc.

Ramsey, N., Jansma, J., Jager, G., Van Raalten, T., & Kahn, R. (2004). Neurophysiological Factors in Human Information Processing Capacity. Brain: A Journal of Neurology, 127(Part 3), 517-525.

Yonkera, J.E., Eriksson, E., Nilssona, L. and Herlitz, A. (2005). Sex Differences in Spatial Visualization and Episodic Memory. Oxford University Press.

Yonkera, J.E., Eriksson, E., Nilssona, L. and Herlitz, A. (2003). Sex Differences in Episodic Memory: Minimal Influence of Estradiol. Elsevier Science.

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