Female advantage in visual working memory capacity for familiar shapes but not for abstract symbols

AbstractBoth behavioral studies and the neurophysiological data modelling suggested female advantage in memory for objects, however, most research pertained to long-term memory, whereas data from visual working memory (VWM) are scanty. In a large sample of 2044 people, the number of objects supposedly encoded in VWM was measured during the change detection task. The stimuli were either relatively familiar geometric shapes or less familiar Greek symbols. Controlling for the general ability level, a small but significant advantage for memorizing shapes in VWM was found in females over males, but no effect was observed for memorizing abstract symbols. The present results support neuroimaging models of human cognitive architecture, suggesting that female VWM relies on a more complex network of domain-specific brain modules, as compared to males. Consequently, formal models of VWM and related cognitive processes should account for sex and material type.

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