Exposure to stressful experiences as well as sex differences in the brain are known to influence the acquisition of new memories. This review focuses on acquisition of two types of Pavlovian learning paradigms: hippocampal-independent delay conditioning and hippocampal-dependent trace conditioning and their modulation by exposure to stressful experience and sex differences in the brain. We concentrate on two sets of findings: the first is that exposure to an acute stressful experience enhances Pavlovian conditioning in the male rat, while exposure to the very same experience dramatically impairs conditioning in female rat. The sexually-opposed effects of stress on conditioning are mediated by differing hormonal substrates (adrenal versus ovarian steroids) and possibly by differing anatomical and biochemical pathways. The second set of findings is that training with hippocampal-dependent trace conditioning enhances the survival of newly generated neurons in the adult hippocampal formation. The same amount of training with hippocampal-independent delay conditioning does not affect their survival. In addition, females acquire the trace task faster than males and generate more new neurons. As with the stress effects on learning, these sex effects are influenced by hormonal status. It is our contention that identifying the hormonal and neuronal processes that modulate associative memory formation will provide insight into the processes of memory formation itself.