Leigh-Anne Carter
Impications for the Sociobiological Account of Gender Differences
in Object and Location Memory

Research Question:  Do gender differences in visual and verbal abilities influence female dominance on object and location memory tasks?

Relevant Background:  A large body of research has indicated that males typically outperform females on spatial tasks (e.g.  Aponsah & Krekling 1997).   One exception to this involves tasks that test object memory and location memory.  In 1992, Silverman and Eals reported that females outscored males on an object memory task.  James and Kimura replicated this study in 1997 and a different version of the tasks used by Silverman and Eals showed a gender difference in location-exchange, but no difference in location-shift.  Eals and Silverman introduced tasks designed to measure verbal memory effects on object and location memory.  Results showed no significant difference for object memory memory, while significantly higher scores were observedfor location memory (1994).  The present study used both the location-shift and location-exchange tasks with real and fake objects, plus additional independent measures of visuospatial and verbal memory to clarify these mixed results.

Hypotheses:  Verbal ability, as well as spatial ability will not account for the gender difference in object and location memory tasks.


    Participants:  There were 38 participants from a small liberal arts college.  There were 17 males and 18 females.
    Materials:  The materials used in this study included object arrays, the Rey Complex Figure Test (Meyers & Meyers 1995), and the California Verbal Learning Test (Delis, Kramer, Kaplan, & Ober 1987).  There were two separate stimulus arrays for real and fake tasks.  There were four response arrays: real object location-shift, real object location-exchange, fake object location-shift, and fake object location-exchange.
    Procedures:  A between subjects design was employed.  Participants all attended a group tsting session, where they completed either location-shift or location-exchange tasks, with either real or fake objects.  Each particpant then scheduled an individual appointment with the research team.  Participants completed the immediate recall trials of the Rey test.  Participants then completed the immediate recall trials of the CVLT, during the required thirty-minute interlude of the Rey test.  Particiapants then finshed the delayed trials of the Rey test and took a short break.  Twenty minutes was required to pass before the delayed trials of the CVLT could be administered.  Participants were provided with a feedback form upon the completion of the session.
    Statistical Analysis: SPSS for windows, version 8.0, was used to conduct statistical analyses.  A 2(task)x 2(object) x  2(gender) univariate of analysis was conducted for memory scores.  A one-way MANOVA with gender as the between subjects factor was performed for the Rey scores, in addition to separate one-way analysis of variancefor each Rey measure.  A one-way MANOVA with gender as the between subjects factor was also performed on the CVLT scores.  Pearson correlation coefficients were computed within gender to determine interactions.

Major Findings:  Overall, particpants scored higher on tasks involving real objects, rather than those involving fake objects.  A significant main effect for object and gender was observed, with females outperforming males.  Males performed better than females on the immediate recall tial of the Rey test.  Males' scores on the object arrays tended to increase with higher performance on this trial.  However, males were still unable to outperform females on the object memory tasks, when the above effect was observed.

Conclusions:  Consistent with earlier findings (e.g. Silverman & Eals 1992), females outperformed males on all object/location tasks, despite the lack of visual or verbal effect on the experimental tasks for both genders.  This indicates that females do not employ a superior visual or verbal strategy for object/location tasks and provides evidence for the sociobiological theory.

Related Links
Click here to learn about the Rey test
Click here for information on Doreen Kimura
Click here to learn more about memory

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    Amponsah, B., & Krekling, S.  (1997).  Sex differences in visual-spatial performance among ghanaian and norwegian adults.  Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 28, 81-92.

    Delis, D., Kaplan, E., Kramer, J., & Ober, B.  (1987).  California Verbal Learning Test.  San Antomio, Texas:  The Psychological Corporation.

    Eals, M., & Silverman, I.  (1994).  The hunterer-gatherer theory of spatial sex differences:  Proximate factors mediating female advantage in recall of object arrays. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15, 95-105.

    James, T., & Kimura, D.  (1997).  Sex Differences in remembering the locations of objects in an array:  Location-shift versus location-exchange.  Evolutin and Human Behavior, 18, 155-163.

    Meyers, J., & Meyers, K.  (1995).  Rey Complex Figure Test and Recognition Trial.  Odessa, Florida:  Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

    Silverman, I., & Eals, M.  (1992).  Sex differences in spatial abilities:  Evolutionary theory and data.  In L. Cosmides & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind:  Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp.487-503).  New York:  Oxford University Press.