How Gender and Personality Affect Memory Retrieval and Mood

Autobiographical memories (AMs) are personal memories that individuals have of different events and experiences that occurred in their lifetimes. Evidence suggests that men retrieve AMs differently than women. Some studies have shown that individuals with extroverted personalities tend to retrieve more positive AMs than negative AMs. In contrast, individuals with introverted personalities and traits, such as neuroticism, retrieve more negative AMs. However, there are few studies that have examined how AM appraisal or suppression, specifically related to gender, affects emotional regulation (ER) and mood state. Because women are far more likely than men to develop negative mood states such as depression and anxiety, Ekaterina Denkova of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Canada led a study to determine if the appraisal or suppression of positive or negative AMs would influence affect and further risk for affective disorders.

For her study, Denkova and colleagues assessed 71 emotionally healthy adults as they retrieved AMs using questionnaires. The researchers evaluated the personality types of the participants and assessed their mood states after they recalled AMs. The study revealed that regardless of gender, participants with extroverted personalities recalled more positive AMs than those with introverted personalities. Men and women with introverted personalities were more likely to recall negative AMs, and women in this group used suppression to cope with the AMs. This behavior directly affected their postretrieval mood states, resulting in negative affect. Additionally, men who recalled positive AMs tended to reappraise their memories more than women, resulting in an overall positive affect that surpassed those of the women with positive AMs. Denkova believes that these findings provide insight into the gender and personality differences in the retrieval of AMs, which directly influences an individual’s risk for affective disorders. She added, “The present findings have relevance for therapeutic intervention (e.g., training in positive thinking and/or training to reappraise) in patients with affective disorders, who tend to focus on negative personal experiences and thus maintain a negative affective state.”

Denkova, E., Dolcos, S., Dolcos, F. (2012, January 16). Reliving Emotional Personal Memories: Affective Biases Linked to Personality and Sex-Related Differences. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026809

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  • Mick

    January 25th, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    Introverted, negative and depressed. . . no wonder they remember the bad memories and not the good

  • Horace M

    January 26th, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Is it really the gender that makes a difference, or is it that some people are simply naturally more negative and the things that they choose to remember more clearly are going to be the times that are the most negative too?

  • donna

    January 26th, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    I know i cannot forget a few things from the past.and that’s mostly because of the situations surrounding those life events.I believe the effect that event had in your life and also your state of mind when that event actually occurred also matter a lot in determining what you retrieve and how much you retrieve.

  • Brittany

    April 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    what if being transsexual is the case one fixes the birth defects by surgery but loses every thing in life to do family friends ect. leaving them very lonely what is your out look on this as.Therapy is not going to fix this neither is antidepressants and thinking good thins only works for the first 4 years Thank you

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