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SooJin Park, Jaehyun Han; The effect of holistic versus analytic processing on gender difference in memory. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):847. doi: 10.1167/11.11.847.
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Object-location memory has been considered one of the few spatial abilities in which women outperform men (Honda & Nihei, 2009). For object-location memory is a complex multi-component process consisting of identifying the object, remembering the location and binding of them (Postma, Jager, Kessels, Koppeschaar, & Van Honk, 2004), which component causes the female advantage remains unknown. The question explored in this study was whether the difference between men and women shown in object-location memory could be arisen from the difference in encoding process. Specifically, holistic versus analytic processing that Nisbett and Miyamoto (2005) suggested as cultural effect on perception might explain the gender difference in object-location memory. To test this hypothesis, we carried out an experiment composed of learning – retention – test phases. In the incidental learning phase, participants saw composite pictures made up of figure and ground, thinking the familiarity of the scenes. After five-minute-retention phase, they did sudden memory tests. In the test phase, participants judged figure and ground separately as seen or not seen for the four kinds of picture sets : the exactly same as learned, the same figure and changed ground, the changed figure and same ground, and the changed figure and ground. The analysis of the results showed that participants were overall more sensitive to ground than figure irrespective of gender. It was consistent with the previous findings that East Asians were more sensitive to contextual changes than to focal object changes (Masuda & Nisbett, 2006). In addition, we also found that women's sensitivity to figure is significantly higher than that of men's, whereas they did not show statistically significant difference in sensitivity to ground. It implied that female advantage in object-location memory could be probable due to higher sensitivity to figure, namely analytic processing.
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