Sex differences in the weighting of metric and categorical information in spatial location memory

Psychol Res. 2015 Jan;79(1):1-18. doi: 10.1007/s00426-013-0539-z. Epub 2014 Jan 17.


According to the Category Adjustment model, remembering a spatial location involves the Bayesian combination of fine-grained and categorical information about that location, with each cue weighted by its relative certainty. However, individuals may differ in terms of their certainty about each cue, resulting in estimates that rely more or less on metric or categorical representations. To date, though, very little research has examined individual differences in the relative weighting of these cues in spatial location memory. Here, we address this gap in the literature. Participants were asked to recall point locations in uniform geometric shapes and in photographs of complex, natural scenes. Error patterns were analyzed for evidence of a sex difference in the relative use of metric and categorical information. As predicted, women placed relatively more emphasis on categorical cues, while men relied more heavily on metric information. Location reproduction tasks showed a similar effect, implying that the sex difference arises early in spatial processing, possibly during encoding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Memory / physiology*