According to Victoria, a 32-year-old business woman, her husband’s forgetfulness is one issue she had yet to come to terms with. “It’s so bad that sometimes he forgets my birthday, sometimes it could be to pick our clothes from the drycleaner, and from time to time, he scatters many things in the house because he is always looking for his things,” she added.
Kingsley’s case might sound extreme, but he is certainly not alone, especially among fellow men.
While Kingsley and Victoria would continue to deal with theirs, Mr. and Mrs. Anifowose, who have been married for 15 years, say they have devised a means to manage theirs, as the man said his wife had taken the place of his reminder since she’s the one who reminds him of everything.
He said, “What I do is to tell her anything I don’t want to forget, and I tell her when to remind me. Guess what, she doesn’t fail me, and sometimes I ask myself if I’m suffering from amnesia or she is just gifted. And she doesn’t use any organiser. It amazes me, really.”
These two accounts somewhat give a fresh perspective to the fact that there is a wide range of differences between men and women, beyond their anatomy. Meanwhile, findings by some researchers have shown that women have better retentive memory than men.
In a study by Prof. Qi Wang, an expert in human development at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, New York, United States, it was found that gender has a role to play in how people remember things.
In the course of the study, which involved 60 college undergraduates, she sent three text messages to them in one week, and instructed them to write down what had happened to them during the previous 30 minutes. Thus, once they received the text, they should quickly type their experience within the last 30 minutes and forward to her for documentation.
At the end of the week, she asked all of them to describe in detail those events they wrote about in the text messages. She titled the study ‘Gender and Emotion in Everyday Event Memory.’
According to the result of the exercise, which was posted on the institution’s website, the researcher found that the women in the study wrote more detailed piece on their past 30 minutes experience in the text message they sent. And beyond that, they were able to recall more details about what they sent via the text message than men after one week.
Wang ascribed the difference to the fact that women pay more attention to happenings and are able to recall such when needed.
Wang said, “It appears that, compared with men, women may attend to and encode more information during ongoing events, experience similar rates of forgetting, and then show greater ability to access retained event information at recall.
“Our findings also suggest that the content of memories is reconstructed over time in a gendered fashion. The findings help us understand gender differences in memory and inform the theoretical debate about where in the memory formation process these differences emerge.
“These findings are provocative in showing that women and men see their worlds differently, likely due to different cognitive styles, and that gendered ideologies come into play in memory reconstruction.”
In another study by Dr. Liana Palermo, a researcher at Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom, it was equally discovered that women are better at remembering things than men, which he ascribed to the fact that women develop the ability when they juggle responsibilities at home with their career and that it may be due to hormones or brain structure. He said men helping in the home could boost their memory.
He involved 100 men and women, aged between 15 and 40 in a task that puts them through a series of memory tests. And at the end of the study, it was concluded that even though both men and women find it hard to remember things as they age, women are still better at remembering things.
He also points to the fact that previous research has shown that in men, the brain’s memory hub shrinks when they are between 20 and 40 years old, unlike in women.
In the study published on Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology and reviewed on Daily Mail, he said, “An alternative hypothesis is that the sex differences we found could be due to the care-taking role often assumed by women and the fact that in addition to work responsibilities, women also have more responsibilities at home.
“This means that the skill needed to balance running a home and bringing up children with holding down a job improves prospective memory.
“A real life example of this would be, in a family, you would expect the woman to be the one to remember to buy some milk after work. Or she will remember to give a book back to a friend when she sees him next. She will be better at all of these kinds of tasks than a man.
“As a consequence of this social role, in daily life women might perform tasks involving prospective memory more than men, enhancing their performance in remembering to remember. If this is the case, one way for men to improve their memory would be to help more around the home.
Meanwhile, an expert in gender and memory at Hamilton College, New Zealand, Azriel Grysman, said women having better memory could be traced to when they were young, when parents often demand details of their experiences.
According to Grysman, demanding more details from girls than boys at that early age is indirectly training them to take note of details and remember them when asked.
“Kids whose mothers asked them to elaborate more when they were young had better recall as adults, and gender norms orient girls more toward elaboration than boys, which may lead to better memories,” she said.
Explaining further in a piece on New York Magazine, she said, “A memory is a pattern of mental activity, and the more entry points we have to what that pattern might be, the more chances we have to retrieve it. Since girls are more likely to be trained to elaborate and include their feelings in their memory-making, they are more likely to remember better.
“It’s quite possible, over time, that those tendencies will help women establish more connections of different pieces of an event in their brains, which will lead to better memory long-term.”
Giving a perspective to the studies, A neurologist, Dr. Adilkaibe Ezeala, said if there is any difference in the ability of men and women to remember things when compared, it would be psychological and not because a part of the brain is responsible for it. He explained that the part of the brain responsible for memory; the temporal lobe, and to some extent the frontal lobe, are present in both men and women.
Meanwhile, a psychologist, Dr. Adepeju Omoteso, said there are many aspects to remembering things, and that if it is about the cognitive aspect, which has to do with what they are learning in school, men and women tend to be on the same level, but when it comes to social things, because women are more emotional, they don’t forget things easily, most especially the wrong done to them.
She said, “Men may forget things more than women because they don’t have time to think of many other things that women think about. Even when they are involved in the same kind of work, the women would likely remember things more than men.
“Women also remember things because they are good record keepers, while men don’t bother about several things. I don’t think it has anything to do with the brain, even though there are many faculties in the brain. There is a faculty in the brain where feelings and associated issues are kept, and because women are more sentimental, they tend to remember all those things. Whatever touches on their emotions, they will remember.
Omoteso explained further that when it comes to episodic memory, women are better at remembering events. Episodic memory is the memory of autobiographical events (times, places, associated emotions, and other contextual who, what, when, where and why) that can be explicitly stated. It is the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at a particular time and place.
“When it comes to the social aspect, women will always remember those things more than men,” she added.