Study uncovers why women remember events better

June 11, 2013 by Karene Booker

(Medical Xpress)—Gender plays a strong role in how people remember, a new Cornell study confirms. Research – and many tales from real life – report that women are typically better at remembering past events than men. Why?

"It appears that, compared with men, women may attend to and encode more information during ongoing events, experience similar rates of forgetting, and then show greater ability to access retained event information at recall," said author Qi Wang, professor of human development in Cornell's College of .

"Our findings also suggest that the content of memories is reconstructed over time in a gendered fashion," Wang said. "The findings help us understand in memory and inform the theoretical debate about where in the process these differences emerge."

Her study, "Gender and Emotion in Everyday Event Memory," is published in the journal Memory (21:4).

Wang tackled the central question of whether women's superior memory for personally experienced events is due to differences in how men and women initially encode event information in the brain, retain it over time or access it later during retrieval. It also examined how women's memories become more socially oriented than men's.

For the research, a culturally diverse group of 60 college undergraduates received three text messages over the course of a week that prompted them to immediately write down what had happened to them during the past 30 minutes. At the end of the week, they were asked to recall as much detail as possible about these events in a surprise .

Compared with men, the women in the study recorded more event details initially and then recalled more details more accurately about the remembered events a week later, even after controlling for the additional detail women originally encoded. And while the in the study recorded similar event content initially, at recall, the women reported their experiences by focusing more on relationships and social interactions than men.

"These findings are provocative in showing that women and men see their worlds differently, likely due to different cognitive styles, and that gendered ideologies come into play in memory reconstruction," Wang added.

The research was supported in part by federal formula funds received from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Explore further: Birth control pills affect memory, study finds

More information:

Related Stories

Birth control pills affect memory, study finds

September 9, 2011

Women who use contraceptives like birth control pills experience memory changes, according to new UC Irvine research. Their ability to remember the gist of an emotional event improves, while women not using the contraceptives ...

It's not your imagination: Memory gets muddled at menopause

May 23, 2013

Don't doubt it when a woman harried by hot flashes says she's having a hard time remembering things. A new study published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), helps confirm with ...

Recommended for you

Babies need free tongue movement to decipher speech sounds

October 12, 2015

Inhibiting infants' tongue movements impedes their ability to distinguish between speech sounds, researchers with the University of British Columbia have found. The study is the first to discover a direct link between infants' ...

Women and men react differently to infidelity

October 8, 2015

If your partner has sex with someone else, it is considered infidelity - even if no emotions are involved. But it is also considered infidelity when your significant other develops a close personal relationship with someone ...

Repeating aloud to another person boosts recall

October 6, 2015

Repeating aloud boosts verbal memory, especially when you do it while addressing another person, says Professor Victor Boucher of the University of Montreal's Department of Linguistics and Translation. His findings are the ...


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.