Age And Gender Differences In Short Term Memory
Age and gender are key determinants of memory performance. The present study sought to determine whether gender and age contribute to any differences in memory, more so the short-term auditory memory. It hypothesized that females would portray better short-term auditory memory compared to males and that participants in early adulthood would have better short-term auditory memory relative to their middle adulthood counterparts. Moreover, it predicted that females in early adulthood and males in middle adulthood would contrast sharply in the short-term auditory memory performance. Results, however, only indicated gender differences in short-term auditory memory. Age differences in short-term auditory memory were insignificant, and so were the differences in memory performance of the combined gender and age groups. While current research only focused on two age groups, future studies could broaden the scope to cover all possible age groups, including those in childhood, adolescence, and late adulthood.
Research has shown that age and gender play a significant role in shaping various factors of life, more so the cognitive functioning of individuals. Age mainly impacts mental functioning through its effects on brain development and deterioration (Murman, 2015). At birth, the brain is underdeveloped, but as one advance in age, it develops consistently up until early adulthood (20-40), which is viewed as the peak before it starts deteriorating. The commencement of mental deterioration after early adulthood, mostly from middle adulthood (41-60), is well documented for both genders but is more adverse in women owing to the hormonal changes that come with menopause (Murman, 2015). On the other hand, gender affects cognitive functioning through its influence on the cognitive facets utilized in mental processes (Jäncke, 2018). Research suggests that women tend to have superior cognitive functioning in general, mainly owing to their capacity to utilize both brain hemispheres in some cognitive functions (Goldman, 2019). Nonetheless, men still outshine women in some cognitive areas. While men tend to outperform women in complex visual-spatial tasks, women thrive in verbal and simple visual-spatial skills (Jäncke, 2018). Age and gender differences in cognition translate to variations in memory, one of the cognitive facets.
The memory function of the brain primarily serves to retain information, either temporarily or permanently. This retention is useful since it actualizes learning, which is critical for both basic survival and human advancement (Norris, 2017). Temporary retention is done by the short-term memory, which subsequently builds up to the long-term memory, which stores information with greater permanence (Norris, 2017). The short-term memory is limited, holding no more than 7 to 8 items at a go, and decays more rapidly (Norris, 2017). Like many other cognitive functions, memory is also affected by age and gender. About age, the evidence is available suggesting the more optimal performance of the memory in the early adulthood phase relative to the middle adulthood period (American Psychological Association, n.d). Just like overall cognition, individual memory performance is shown to be highest around early adulthood but wanes as one enters middle adulthood. Individuals in early adulthood hence portray more exceptional ability in recalling and are better learners, relative to older individuals. While both men and women are affected by the deterioration of memory in middle adulthood, the latter are more adversely impacted owing to the hormonal changes during the menopause phase, which occurs during this life stage (Pauls, Petermann, & Lepach, 2013). Research also shows that memory abilities vary with gender, with women having better overall memory, relative to men. Nonetheless, men display better performance in visual-spatial memory tasks, while women exhibit better verbal and episodic memory. Evidence also exists that highlights women as having better working memories, relative to men (Hill, Laird, & Robinson, 2015). Therefore, women have exhibited better memory abilities than men in significantly more areas.
Present evidence on the gender differences in auditory memory suggests that women do perform better than men in remembering information presented orally (Neeru et al., 2017). This better performance is mainly attributed to their advantage in verbal memory (Pauls et al., 2013). At the same time, research focusing on the age differences in auditory memory, albeit scant, also shows that younger individuals present better auditory memory (Alain, Garami, & Backer, 2018). Nevertheless, the current research found studies combining both age and gender as variables for the differences in auditory memory to be almost non-existent. Hence, the current research will contribute to filling the void in the literature examining the effects of both age and gender on the auditory memory facet, giving focus to short-term auditory memory. It will also come up with preliminary findings that will guide future research seeking to examine gender and age differences in auditory memory. Three main measures will be used to gauge the short-term auditory memory, immediate recall, the learning curve, and retroactive interference.
The current research sought to find out whether age and gender affect short-term auditory memory. It put forth four hypotheses, the first advancing that the participants would display gender differences in short-term verbal auditory memory, and women will have a better immediate recall and learning curve, with lower retroactive interference. The second hypothesis posits that variations in short-term auditory memory will also play out across the two age groups, and participants in early adulthood will portray superior levels of immediate recall and learning, with lower retroactive interference, relative to those in middle adulthood. The third and fourth hypotheses will consider both age and gender of the participants, advancing that early adulthood female participants will have the highest immediate recall and learning curves with lower retroactive interference, relative to all other groups, given the advantage of both age and gender. On the other hand, middle adulthood male participants, disadvantaged in both age and gender, were expected to portray the lowest immediate recall and learning curve, with high retroactive interference, relative to all other groups. Therefore, women and participants in early adulthood will generally have better short-term auditory memory, and female participants in early adulthood will have the best short auditory memory, among the age and gender groups, in total contrast to male participants in middle adulthood.
45 participants were selected for this study (male; n=23), of mean age 35.84 (±3.205; CL=95%). The participants were primarily selected through the convenience sampling technique, which yielded about three-quarters of the group. Snowball sampling was then employed, providing the remaining quarter of participants. Owing to the selection techniques applied, most participants hailed from the same locality, and some were family members. All subjects interviewed reported to be optimal mental health and were engaged in various activities in life. While some reported being students, others were professionals in different fields, including education, law, and hotel service. The study participants were grouped into eight categories that were used in studying gender and age differences in auditory memory, namely; male, female, early adulthood, middle adulthood, early adulthood male and female as well as middle adulthood males and females.
The test utilized to gauge the short-term auditory memory of the participants partially adopted the design of the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT). The Rey AVLT is a standardized test administered in measuring various memory processes in individuals with significant validity and reliability (Bean, 2011). It constitutes two-word lists, lists A and B, with the former as the target list and the latter as the distractor list, and each of the lists containing 15 unique words that do not correlate. Both word lists were adopted from the original Rey AVLT (Rezvanfard et al., 2011).
The auditory memory test in the present research was administered by presenting the target list (list A) five times to the participants at a rate of a word per second. After each presentation, a participant was asked to recall as many words as they could without any particular order, and without leaving out any words recalled in previous trials. The examiner would then record the recall outcomes as trial 1 to trial 5, with each word recalled being assigned a point. Words not in the wordlist were not assigned any point; neither did they incur a loss of points. After the fifth trial, the distractor list (list B), was read to the participant, who was required to recall it only once, in what was trial 6. Again, each word recalled was assigned a point. The test in the current study ended with trial seven, whereby the participant was asked to recall the words from list A without them being reread. The current study failed to carry out trials eight and nine, as in the original Rey AVLT, since it was mainly interested in testing short-term memory. Conducting the test took approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Current research would obtain three particular measures to gauge the short-term auditory memory of the participants; immediate recall, the learning curve, and retroactive interference. Immediate recall of each group would be obtained from the mean of trial one totals for each group, while retroactive interference would be obtained from the mean of trial seven totals (Bean, 2011). While higher trial one means would indicate better immediate recall, higher means in retroactive interference would demonstrate lower retroactive interference. Additionally, immediate recall is a measure of the immediate memory retention span, while retroactive interference gauges the effect of learning the distractor list on recollecting the post-distractor list, measuring storage, and retrieval (McDermott & Roediger, 2019). On the other hand, the learning curve, which demonstrates relative auditory memory capacity, was to be derived through the mean difference of totals of trial five and trial one. A higher learning curve means would indicate that the group had a higher memory capacity to learn.
The researcher administered the test through phone calls to the participants. However, before administering the test, the researcher would inform the respondents of the details about the memory test, such as the reason and the procedure, either through face-to-face communications or mobile phone messages. The respondents were asked to be completely honest in their answers and not to record the list of words as they were read to them in writing since they would be unsupervised during the test period. Moreover, they were assured that the results of these tests would be confidential. Participant data were collected over two weeks.
Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data collected from the 45 study participants. The means of the dependent variables; immediate recall, learning curve, and retroactive interference, for each of the independent variables; gender (male, female) and age (early and middle adulthood), were collected and compared. This comparison was performed using the independent sample t-test and the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), with an alpha level at 0.05. The mean results of the dependent variables for each group are presented in Table 3.
Male participants in the study recorded lower mean scores in immediate recall, learning curve, and retroactive interference compared to females and t-test analysis showed the difference in mean between the surveyed males and females to be statistically significant (immediate recall; t=-2.6563, p=0.0056, learning curve; t=-2.8935, p=0.0028, and retroactive interference; t=-4.5334, p≤0.00001).
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