Sex Differences in Memorization: a Study of Visuospatial Memory
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
Home |
The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
SHELLENBERGER, R. C. (2004). Sex Differences in Memorization: a Study of Visuospatial Memory. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 7. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Sex Differences in Memorization: a Study of Visuospatial Memory
RACHEL C. SHELLENBERGER
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
An experiment was conducted to detect whether there are sex differences in the recall of pictures and/or words and to see if the existence of color or non-color (non-color = black-and-white) increases or decreases the likelihood of recall. Participants included 187 students from four different Psychology 101 classes. Each class was shown a slide show of pictures and words in one of four conditions: colored picture, black-and-white picture, word with colored background, or word in black-and-white. Significant main effects were found for sex, pictures, and color; and a significant interaction was found for color and pictures. The results indicate that color and pictures are recalled best overall, while the interaction of sex is insignificant.

INTRODUCTION
The concept of memory has been evaluated time and time again by many different researchers. Snodgrass (1997) notes the state of memory theory developed by Atkinson and Shiffrin that describes two memory systems. The first is the short-term memory (STM) system which holds information in temporary storage while a “control process” operates on its contents. The control process is assumed to be subvocal rehearsal which effects whether the contents of STM will be transferred to the second memory system, long-term memory (LTM), or whether it will be lost from STM by entry of new information. Long-term memory is viewed as a permanent store of potentially unlimited capacity which stores information in terms of its meaning or significance to the individual. As suggested by George Miller, the capacity of STM is generally acknowledged to be plus or minus two “chunks”. “A chunk is a piece of information that has a unitary representation in memory” (Snodgrass, 1997). By chunking things together we are capable of increasing the capacity of STM. According to Dergowski and Johoda (1975), under a variety of conditions, pictures do not evoke responses associated with the objects they depict as effectively as the objects themselves. In contrast, Rowe (1972, as cited in Deregowski and Johoda, 1975) reported consistent superior performance with pictures than with written words on discrimination learning. Anglin and Levie (1985) conducted a recognition-memory test using color photographs, black-and-white photographs, simple outline drawings, or printed words. They found that black-and-white photographs were superior to words, and the enhancement of shading, detail, and color did not increase likelihood of recall. An assessment of the influence of color as a surface feature vs. its influence as stored knowledge in object recognition was done by Joseph and Proffitt (1996). Their results indicated that relative to surface color, stored color knowledge was more influential in object recognition.Over the years many researchers have been interested in defining significant sex differences in cognitive abilities. Although there are no sex differences that have been found in general intelligence, reliable differences are found on some tests of cognitive abilities. Many of the tasks that assess the ability to manipulate visual images in working memory tend to show an advantage for males, whereas many of the tasks that require retrieval from long-term memory and the acquisition and use of verbal information tend to show advantages for females (Halpern and LaMay, 2000). Some recent studies informed by Schacter and Tulving’s memory systems model (1994) have indicated gender differences in performance for episodic memory tasks (Herlitz, et al., 1997, as cited in Ionescu, 2000). In congruence with these studies, Lewin, Wolgers, and Herlitz (2001) report that women have a higher verbal and nonverbal episodic memory score, whereas men tend to be better on visuospatial episodic memory tests (as cited in Postma, et al., 2003). The purpose of this study is to detect whether there are sex differences in the recall of pictures and/or words and to see if the existence of color or non-color (meaning black-and-white as non-color) increases or decreases the effect of recall.


METHOD

PARTICIPANTS
Data were collected from 187 introductory psychology students at Missouri Western State College, including 119 female students and 68 male students. The collection was taken from four different Psychology 101 classes.

MATERIALS
The stimuli consists’ of 20 slides, 10 of which are pictures and the other 10 are words. A new slide was shown every 2 s, lasting a total of 40 s. Stimuli were presented in one of four conditions, with a total of five stimuli in each condition: word in black and white, picture in black and white, word with colored background, or picture in color. The slides occurred randomly per condition. Pictures and words are of common objects related to everyday life (BOOK, STAR, DOG, APPLE, ICE CREAM, FLAG, BOAT, etc.) Stimuli not selected as words were presented as pictures. Each class received the same 20 stimuli, but in different conditions. The conditions of the pictures and words were changed from each presentation/classroom; meaning that one class received the stimulus “book” as a colored picture of a book, whereas the next class received the same stimulus as a black and white picture of a book. For the third and fourth class, they also received this stimulus, but in the form of a word and in one of the conditions for words (see Appendix). The last of the materials included a recall sheet with 20 blank spaces and participants were asked to note whether they are male or female.

PROCEDURE
An informed consent of participation was announced before the testing began. Anyone who wished not to participate was asked to wait in the hall until testing had been finalized or to sit quietly in their seat. People who wished to participate were informed that they are free to end their participation at any time and asked not to turn in their recall sheet in the event that this happens. All participants received a recall sheet and was asked to turn it face down during the slideshow. All participants were tested within the classroom and were all shown the same slideshow at the same time for a total of 40 s. Before testing began, participants were asked to write an “F” or an “M” on the back of their recall sheet stating whether they are male or female. A black screen will appear before and after the slides alerting the participants of the start and finish. After 30 seconds had elapsed, they were given a cue to turn over their recall sheets and proceed with recall. Participants were given 90 s to recall as many items as possible and asked not to repeat any items they have already listed. When they were done with their recall or when the 90 s has elapsed, participants were asked to turn their sheets face down once again to eliminate cheating or further recall.


RESULTS
A 2 (sex) × 2 (color or black and white) × 2 (picture or word) mixed design ANOVA was calculated. A significant main effect for sex was found (F(1, 185) = 8.26, p<.01). Students who were female had a higher level of memory (m = 2.65) than students who were male (m = 2.42). A significant main effect for color was found (F(1, 185) = 63.3, p<.01). Colored words/pictures increased memory (m = 2.88) more than black and white words/pictures (m = 2.18). A significant main effect for pictures was found (F(1, 185) = 19.8, p<.01). Pictures increased memory (m = 2.71) more than words (m = 2.36). The interaction of sex and color was not significant (F(1, 185) = .13, p = .71). The effect of color on memory was not influenced by sex. The interaction of sex and picture was not significant (F(1, 185) = .19, p = .66). The effect of pictures, as well, was not influenced by sex. The interaction of color and pictures was significant (F(1, 185) = 16.4, p<.01). Color and pictures interact such that black and white words are the worst, however adding color to a picture does not increase the benefit of being a picture (see Figure 1). The 3-way interaction of sex, color, and pictures was not significant (F(1, 185) = 2.6, p = .11). Color and pictures were best recalled overall, while the influence of sex was insignificant.


DISCUSSION
The purpose of this study was to detect whether there are sex differences in the recall of pictures and/or words and to see if the existence of color or non-color (meaning black-and-white as non-color) increases or decreases the effect of recall.In the beginning of this study, I truly believed I would find a significant interaction between males and females in the recall of pictures and/or words. My belief is based on the ideas of males initiating a better memory score for visuospatial episodic memory tasks, whereas females have a greater memory score in verbal and nonverbal episodic memory tasks. This hypothesis is supported by many studies (Lewin, Wolgers, Herlitz, 2001, as cited in Postma, et al., 1997; Halpern & LaMay, 2000; Herlitz, et al., 1997, as cited in Ionescu, 2000). Another study reported that they also found no particular sex differences in the recall of pictures and words in several experiments on hypermnesia (Ionescu & Erdelyi, 1992; Ionescu, 1993, as cited in Ionescu, 2000). Overall, I did find a significant main effect for sex, where females did better on recall than males. This finding supports the study done by McGivern et al. (1997), which demonstrated that both young and adult females outmatched males on visual recognition memory, where women seem to have a better general (episodic) memory capacity such that the information to be memorized includes a low degree of spatial processing (as cited in Postma et al., 2004). . Although there was a significant main effect found for sex, color and pictures were recalled best overall, while the interaction of sex was insignificant.More interestingly there was a significant main effect found for pictures, where pictures increased the likelihood of recall. On the whole, pictures in each condition were recalled more than words. Just like Rowe (1972), reported consistently superior performance with pictures than with written words on discrimination learning (as cited in Deregowski & Jahoda, 1975). Also, a significant main effect was found for color, where color also increased the likelihood of recall. Largely, pictures in color and words with colored backgrounds were recalled best, such that black-and-white words were the worst. It was surprising to find that words in black-and-white were the least recalled, in fact, the mean number is questionably too low. The interaction of color and pictures was significant such that pictures alone and color alone increased memory, however adding color to a picture is insignificant in the event of recall. While I found that color had a major impact on recognition, a study done by Anglin and Levie (1985) found that the enhancement of shading, detail, and color did not increase the likelihood of recall. These findings of such enhancements are quite the opposite. With an increased number of male participants, I may have found a different significance in all of the conditions, or primarily in the overall mean number recalled. There really should have been a more equal number of male and female participants. By increasing the number of slides per condition I may have also found different significant scores. In selecting the stimuli for the slides, I tried to control for biasing effects. No-one can completely control for these kinds of effects, but making them as equally “gendered” as possible is what needs to be done to have control in your experiment. Possibly, this may not have been controlled for enough. In continuation of this study, differences may be found by examining a different group of subjects. I’m especially interested in the comparison of the scores found in this study to the scores of a younger group of subjects. Would we find more or less sex differences in a group of adolescents than with adults? I’m also interested in another possible implication for future research. By testing the conditions on separate slide shows, it may increase the likelihood of finding a significant difference between each condition. I would set up four different slide shows again, but only allowing one condition per show. Then test all four classes on all four slide shows with the different conditions. By doing this we could see a more distinguished set of results.


REFERENCES
Anglin, G. J., & Levie, W. H. (1985). Role of visual richness in picture recognition memory. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 61, 1303-1306.Deregowski, J. B., & Jahoda, G. (1975). Efficacy of objects, pictures and words in a simple learning task. International Journal of Psychology, 10, 19-25.Halpern, D. F., & LaMay, M. L. (2000). The smarter sex: A critical review of sex differences in intelligence. Educational Psychology Review, 12, 229-246.Ionescu, M. D. (2000). Sex differences in memory estimates for pictures and words. Psychological Reports, 87, 315-322.Joseph, J. E., & Proffitt, D. R. (1996). Semantic versus perceptual influences of color in object recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Memory & Cognition, 22, 407-429.Postma, A., & Jager, G., & Kessels, R., & Koppeschaar, H., & van Honk, J. (2004). Sex differences for selective forms of spatial memory. Brain and Cognition, 54, 24-34.Snodgrass, G. (1997). The memory trainers. In Solso, R. L. (Ed), Mind and Brain Science in the 21st Century (pp. 199-233). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Appendix


Figure 1--Mean Number of Pictures & Words Recalled

Submitted 12/7/2004 12:57:22 PM
Last Edited 12/7/2004 1:19:24 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

Rated by 0 users. Users who logon can rate manuscripts and write reviews.

© 2017 National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. All rights reserved. The National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse is not responsible for the content posted on this site. If you discover material that violates copyright law, please notify the administrator. This site receives money through the Google AdSense program when users are directed to useful commercial sites. We do not encourage or condone clicking on the displayed ads unless you have a legitimate interest in the advertisement.