When it comes to recalling the details of personal events, women have the advantage, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The researchers found that women have a more reliable episodic memory compared to men, remembering specifics about what happened and when.
“The results show that there is a slight female advantage in episodic memory and that advantage varies depending on which materials are to be remembered,” explained study lead author Martin Asperholm.
Episodic memory is the ability to recall a collection of personal experiences and events, such as where a lost object was placed, the faces and names of acquaintances, or a route that was previously driven. This is one of the brain’s most sensitive systems and tends to deteriorate relatively early in adulthood. Episodic memory is strongly affected by sleep deprivation, depression, or other factors which influence cognitive performance.
The study was focused on gender differences in episodic memory performance. The team analyzed data from more than 600 studies conducted between 1973 and 2013 that involved more than a million participants.
The findings suggest that women are better at locating lost objects and recalling specific aspects of verbal information – like the details of a conversation. Women also have a sharper memory when it comes to remembering faces or sensory information, including tastes and smells.
However, men take the upper hand when remembering facts that involve spatial processing, such as where the car is located in a crowded parking lot.
Although female advantages in verbally-based episodic memory tasks were found to be consistent since 1973, they can still be considered small, according to the study authors. Overall, about 61 percent of women will perform above average compared to men when recalling information that was relayed verbally.
While the cognitive differences found between men and women were only modest, the researchers hope that their mega-analysis will lead to further research on gender and memory to answer questions like whether small differences in basic cognitive abilities have a cumulative impact on everyday life.
The study is published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Leszek Glasner