Gender differences in young children's recall of sex-stereotyped materials as a function of encoding condition



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Two experiments were conducted to investigate the processes underlying gender differences in young children's recall of sex-stereotyped materials. Previous research has demonstrated that boys have better recall of items with stereotyped masculine connotations (e.g. football) and girls have a better recall of stereotyped feminine items (e.g. doll). In Experiment 1, 80 Kindergarten children were presented stereotyped masculine and feminine picture/word items under two different encoding conditions. One group of children was simply told to remember the names of the pictures, another group performed a semantic orienting task on each item as presented. The orienting task was designed to eliminate potential attentional differences between same and opposite-sex items and to insure semantic elaboration of all items. The results indicated that both boys and girls in the no-orienting task condition recalled same-sex items better than opposite-sex items, which replicated the findings of previous research. However, the semantic orienting task appeared to eliminate differential recall for males and increase differential recall for females. In Experiment 2, 38 Kindergarten children were presented sex-typed materials with instructions to tell the examiner everything they knew about the items. The scores on a later recall test replicated the recall patterns in the semantic orienting task condition in Experiment 1. Moreover, there were gender differences in children's knowledge of masculine and feminine items as measured by the number of meaningful associations to the item. Females had significantly higher meaningfulness scores for feminine items than for masculine items, whereas males' meaningfulness scores for feminine and masculine items did not differ. The results of the two experiments taken together suggest that, for girls, better recall of same-sex items could be explained solely in terms of their greater knowledge of feminine items. However, for boys, better recall of same-sex items appeared to be related to a propensity to selectively attend to and process items congruent with their gender.



Sex differences (Psychology), Child psychology