It has been hypothesized that gender differences in visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM) are larger in tasks requiring active elaboration of the material. In the present study we explored this issue by using an object relocation task, with both verbal and visual stimuli. The involvement of active processes was manipulated through the type of transformation required on the stimulus and through the introduction of different kinds of interference. In the three experiments reported, participants were shown either words or cartoon object icons in different locations and had to relocate them in either the same format or in the opposite one (object icons could be transformed into words and vice versa). Males outperformed females in the most demanding conditions, in which object icons and words were presented together in the encoding phase, and both had to be transformed in the recall phase; or when more demanding interferences were used. Our data suggest that the retention strategy was similar for the two groups and that the gender effect is related to a selective female difficulty associated with the increase in active VSWM processing. These findings further support the hypothesized distinction between the passive and active components of VSWM and illustrate the role that this distinction might play in accounting for individual differences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology