Gender Differences in Visuospatial Working Memory —Does Emotion Matter?

  •  Andrés González-Garrido    
  •  Fabiola Gómez-Velázquez    
  •  Henrique Sequeira    
  •  Julieta Ramos-Loyo    
  •  Adriana López-Franco    


Sex-based differences in visuospatial working memory (VSWM) processing have been documented previously.
However, there is a significant lack of empirical data on the gender-related effects on both cognitive load, and
the emotional content of spatially-remembered objects in VSWM. In order to explore this issue, 50 young adults
(25 males) voluntarily participated in performing a VSWM task with two different levels of cognitive load.
Trials included 4 or 6 facial (happy, fearful and neutral faces), or non-facial, stimuli, presented sequentially at
randomized spatial locations, and subjects were asked to reproduce the sequences in inverse order. Behavioral
results showed that both males and females performed more accurately and faster when the sequences to be
reproduced were shorter. In general, males performed significantly better than females, but particularly when
reproducing longer sequences. Males and females were sensitive to the emotional content of the stimuli, as both
genders achieved significantly more correct responses during trials with happy faces. Results suggest that
gender-based differences on VSWM processing go beyond discriminating processes, and may involve
dissimilarities in cognitive strategies, and/or underlying neural substrates.

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