NC9 Special Report: The Gender Games


POSTED: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 8:16pm

UPDATED: Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 2:13pm

We've all heard it before:

Women are better communicators than men, they're more organized, sensitive, and emotional.

Men are tough, they say, are the big company executives, forget birthdays, and so it goes on.

These stereotypes have always been around, so we decided to experiment with one in particular: Memory.

Using a study similar to one conducted by researchers at the University of London, we approached both men and women in El Paso with a list of 10 words, and asked them to recite that list back to us.

The women had no problem, most could remember 6 or 7 words.

But the men really struggled.

The difference between the men and women's verbal memory was even more obvious when we asked them to remember the words 3 minutes later.

It turns out this isn't a fluke.

"Women will do better because it's verbal and women have the better verbal memory," said Dr. Albert Cuetter, a neurologist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Cuetter says the "hippocampus" is the part of the brain tied to a person's memory.

But through evolution, the brain, and a person's memory, functions differently in men than in women.

According to Dr. Cuetter, women have better verbal, episodic memory - like remembering words, pictures, and everyday events.

But men are better with spatial processing, like remembering directions.

And it all goes back to the caveman days.

"Women would stay around the bonfire talking, whereas men had to go hunting. The men had to go hunting and knew how to come back," said Dr. Cuetter.

We decided to get behind the wheel and put ourselves to that test.

One of our colleagues at NewsChannel 9 gave us a complex set of directions from our studios to Bowie Bakery in South El Paso.

And just like Dr. Cuetter theorized, Keagan had less difficulty finding his way there.

So even though it's something men and women have fought about since the days of the caveman, there really are no winners or losers when it comes to memory.

In the end, the results of our verbal memory experiment were similar to those of the University of London.

In each case, women were more successful than men at remembering the list of words we gave them, both right away, and 3 minutes later.

But there were limitations to our study. We each tested 5 men and women, whereas researchers from the University of London tested more than 9,000 people.

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