The influence of sex versus sex-related traits on long-term memory for gist and detail from an emotional story

Consciousness and Cognition 13 (2):391-400 (2004)
Recent findings demonstrate sex-related differences in the neurobiological mechanisms by which emotional arousal influences memory, and raise questions about the extent to which memory for emotional events may differ between males and females. Here we examine whether sex-related differences exist in the recall of central information and peripheral detail from an emotional story. Healthy subjects viewed a brief, narrated slide-show containing emotional elements in its middle section. One week later, they received an incidental multiple-choice recognition test for the story. Following the test, each subject completed the BEM Sex-Role Inventory, an assessment of sex-related masculine and feminine traits. The results reveal no differences in recall of either central or peripheral story information when considering the performance of actual men and women, but a significant difference when considering male and females as determined by their BEM test scores. “BEM” males showed significantly enhanced recall of central emotional information. “BEM” females did not. Both groups showed significantly enhanced recall of peripheral emotional information, although this effect appeared larger in BEM females than in BEM males. The influences of “BEM” sex and type of information significantly interacted to influence emotional memory performance. These findings confirm the existence of sex-related influences in the recall of emotional information, and suggest that sex-related traits, rather than actual sex per se, may be a more sensitive indicator of these influences
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DOI 10.1016/j.concog.2003.11.003
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