When choosing your Scrabble partner, or seeking help with the Sunday crossword, you’d better have the girls by your side.
That’s because a new study found that women are better at finding and remembering words than men.
Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed the results of 168 studies examining gender differences in ‘verbal fluency’ and ‘verbal episodic memory’.
Verbal fluency is a measure of one’s vocabulary while verbal episodic memory is the ability to recall words encountered in the past.
‘Women are better. The female benefit is consistent across time and longevity, but it’s also relatively small,” says Professor Marco Hirnstein.
Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway analyzed the results of 168 studies examining gender differences in ‘verbal fluency’ and ‘verbal episodic memory’ (stock image)
HOW MEN’S AND WOMEN’S BRAINS ARE DIFFERENTLY TURNED?
A study by a team from the University of Pennsylvania scanned the brains of 900 men, women and children ages eight to 22.
From the scans, they were able to create a complete roadmap of the connections in each of their brains, called their “connectome.”
All connectomes are based on a common set of wiring between brain regions, such as connecting the region involved with speech to that which processes hearing, giving researchers a fixed frame of reference.
But the team found subtle differences in the way brains connected in men and women.
The maps show that men’s brains may be wired for better special awareness and motor skills, while connections in women’s brains are wired to give them an edge in memory and social cognition.
The findings could help shed light on brain diseases and behavioral disorders that progress more quickly in one sex than another.
Professor Hirnstein said: ‘Most intellectual skills show no or negligible differences in average performance between men and women.
“However, women excel in some tasks, while men excel on average in others.
‘Until now, the focus has mainly been on skills in which men excel. In recent years, however, the focus has shifted more towards women.’
Prior to their research, the last literature analysis that tested gender differences in verbal fluency and memory was conducted in 1988.
This identified a small female advantage, but Hirnstein and his colleagues wanted to update this result and discover the current magnitude of the difference.
They performed a ‘meta-analysis’ of the combined data from all theses, master’s theses and studies published in scientific journals they could find.
It included data from more than 350,000 participants from the past 50 years.
The researchers also looked at how the results of the studies relate to the gender of the first or last author, the year of publication and the ages of the participants.
The results, published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, found a small but consistent benefit for women in verbal fluency and verbal memory.
However, when it came to verbal fluency, the feminine advantage came about only in “phonemic fluency,” that is, naming words beginning with a specific letter.
Gender differences were category-dependent in naming things like red or round, for example, in what’s known as semantic fluency.
In addition, they found that the female advantage depends on the gender of the leading scientist.
Female scientists report a greater female advantage, while male scientists report a smaller female advantage.
The results, published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, found a small but consistent benefit for women in verbal fluency and verbal memory (stock image)
“Both male and female first authors reported better performance for participants of their own gender,” the author wrote.
‘Future studies should investigate publication bias and first-author/last-author effects in cognitive skills in which males/boys typically excel, eg mental rotation.
“This has been largely ignored until now.”
The researchers think their results could help improve diagnostic assessments that test these verbal skills, such as for dementia.
They say it’s critical to know that women are generally better at those tasks to avoid underdiagnosing women because of their better average performance.
In addition, it could prevent the overdiagnosis of men who, on average, perform lower in the same tests.
The authors wrote: ‘We propose that female advantage arises from a complex interaction of biological, psychological and socio-cultural factors.’
Women remember details like ‘who said what’ and ‘where are missing objects’ better than men
According to research from Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, women are better able to remember when it comes to remembering specific characteristics.
Women apparently have an edge when it comes to remembering features of a conversation or where missing objects might be because they do better with episodic memory.
Episodic memory is the ability to recall autobiographical events, such as what happened last week or what the cat was fed this morning.
As one of the most sensitive memory systems, it can be affected by sleep deprivation, depression or aging.
The research also indicates that women are better at remembering faces and recalling sensory memories such as smells.
Read more here