Gender Differences in the Recall of Gender-Stereotyped Items

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  • Topic: Gender, Gender differences, Male
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Gender Differences in the Recall of Gender-Stereotyped Items

The investigation into the area of gender differences in memory was previously neglected due to prior research by Maccoby and Jacklin (1974), who stated that there were no gender differences in memory and learning. However, more recent research has begun to study gender differences for different types of memory. For example, it may be that men have better memories for more male related experiences and females have better memories for more female related experiences (Herlitz, Nilsson & Bäckman, 1997). Crawford, Hermann, Holdsworth, Randall and Robbins (1989) predicted that men and women would differ in the performance of certain memory tasks, such as more male orientated memory tasks and more female orientated memory tasks. They found that women were more likely to remember items on a shopping list, and men were more likely to remember travel directions. Therefore, they suggested that females and males express stereotypical memory processes towards their own gender.

A study by McKelvie, Standing, St Jean and Law (1993) looked at the gender differences in the recognition memory for faces and cars. They found that men were better at recognizing male faces and cars, and females were better at recognising female and children faces. McKelvie (1981) suggested that gender differences in recognition memory could be due to the differences in male and female interests. Herrmann, Crawford, and Holdsworth (1992) looked to see if females would remember more items from a shopping list than from travel direction, and if men would remember more travel directions than items from a shopping list. Results showed that females performed better on the shopping list than males, and males performed better on the travel directions than the females. They also looked at the gender differences if the gender-linked content was changed to suit both genders. For example, the shopping list had two titles; shopping list and hardware list, and the directions had two titles; directions for making a shirt, and directions for making a work bench. Hermann et al. (1992) found that male’s performance was better for the directions when it was labelled as ‘directions for making a work bench’ than when it was labelled as ‘directions for making a shirt.’ These results indicate that memory processes are affected when stereotypes are applied to memory tasks.

One explanation for gender differences in memory is the gender schema theory, which explains that individuals learn the definition and norms of being male or female from the society and culture in which they live in. Therefore, children adjust their behaviour to fit these gender norms and to fit in with their society (Bem, 1981). Bem (1981) stated that the gender schema theory predicts that information related to an individual’s gender schema should be recalled much better than information that isn’t related to their gender schema. Gender schemata are referred to as the cognitive structures that arrange an individual’s gender related knowledge (Cherney, 2005). Liben and Signorella (1980) suggested that gender schemata bias the decisions and memories for gender-related information. Therefore, this could cause females to remember more female related items, and males to remember more male related items.

More specific research has been conducted on gender differences in the recall of gender related objects. For example, a study by Richardson (2006) looked at the difference in recall of gender associated images, for males and females. Twenty-eight participants took part in this study, and all were psychology undergraduate students. However, Richardson found that there was no significant effect of recall between the gender of the participants and the gender related image. Another study by McGivern et al. (1997) was interested in the recognition memory of objects which were either female related, male...
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