Sex differences in human psychology
The results from research on sex differences in memory are mixed and inconsistent, with some studies showing no difference, and others showing a female or male advantage. Most studies have found no sex differences in short term memory, the rate of memory decline due to aging, or memory of visual stimuli. Females have been found to have an advantage in recalling auditory and olfactory stimuli, experiences, faces, names, and the location of objects in space. However, males show an advantage in recalling "masculine" events. A study examining sex differences in performance on the California Verbal Learning Test found that males performed better on Digit Span Backwards and on reaction time, while females were better on short-term memory recall and Symbol-Digit Modalities Test.
A study was conducted to explore regions within the brain that are activated during working memory tasks in males versus females. Four different tasks of increasing difficulty were given to 9 males and 8 females. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure brain activity. The lateral prefrontal cortices, the parietal cortices and caudates were activated in both genders. With more difficult tasks, more brain tissue was activated. The left hemisphere was predominantly activated in femalesí brains, whereas there was bilateral activation in malesí brains. This suggests some sort of gender difference in the brain organization involved in working memory.
Normal aging is associated with a decline in various memory abilities in many cognitive tasks; the phenomenon is known as age-related memory impairment (AMI) or age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). The ability to encode new memories of events or facts and working memory shows decline in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Studies comparing the effects of aging on episodic memory, semantic memory, short-term memory and priming find that episodic memory is especially impaired in normal aging; some types of short-term memory are also impaired. The deficits may be related to impairments seen in the ability to refresh recently processed information. Source information is one type of episodic memory that suffers with old age; this kind of knowledge includes where and when the person learned the information. Knowing the source and context of information can be extremely important in daily decision-making, so this is one way in which memory decline can affect the lives of the elderly. Therefore, reliance on political stereotypes is one way to use their knowledge about the sources when making judgments, and the use of metacognitive knowledge gains importance. This deficit may be related to declines in the ability to bind information together in memory during encoding and retrieve those associations at a later time.
In contrast, implicit, or procedural memory, typically shows no decline with age. Other types of short-term memory show little decline, and semantic knowledge (e.g. vocabulary) actually improves with age. In addition, the enhancement seen in memory for emotional events is also maintained with age.
Losing working memory has been cited as being the primary reason for a decline in a variety of cognitive tasks due to aging. These tasks include long-term memory, problem solving, decision making, and language. Working memory involves the manipulation of information that is being obtained, and then using this information to complete a task. For example, the ability of one to recite numbers they have just been given backwards requires working memory, rather than just simple rehearsal of the numbers which would require only short-term memory. One's ability to tap into one's working memory declines as the aging process progresses. It has been seen that the more complex a task is, the more difficulty the aging person has with completing this task. Active reorganization and manipulation of information becomes increasingly harder as adults age. When an older individual is completing a task, such as having a conversation or doing work, they are using their working memory to help them complete this task. As they age, their ability to multi-task seems to decline; thus after an interruption it is often more difficult for an aging individual to successfully finish the task at hand. Additionally, working memory plays a role in the comprehension and production of speech. There is often a decline in sentence comprehension and sentence production as individuals age. Rather than linking this decline directly to deficits in linguistic ability, it is actually deficits in working memory that contribute to these decreasing language skills.
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