Sex differences in verbal working memory: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The present meta-analysis aimed to quantify sex differences in verbal working memory and to examine potential moderators of these differences. We examined 802 effect sizes from 478 samples in 284 studies in a multilevel meta-analysis. Results revealed a small overall female advantage (g = .028, 95% CI [.006, .050]). In the overall sample, results showed that sex differences differed across tasks. Specifically, the female advantage was significant for cued tasks (g = .079, 95% CI [.030, .128]) and Free Recall tasks (g = .145, 95% CI [.102, .188]) whereas there was a male advantage on Complex Span (g = -.042, 95% CI [-.083, -.002]), and no sex differences on Serial Recall (g = .003, 95% CI [-.055, .050]), and Simple Span tasks (g < .001, 95% CI [-.034, .033]). Within each task, we found that recall direction, stimulus type, presentation format, response format, and age accounted for significant variance in at least 1 of the tasks. Analyses provided no evidence of a publication bias, although the female advantage varied as a function of sample source, whether the title made reference to sex, and whether authors had to be contacted to obtain relevant data. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for sex differences in episodic memory and in the context of clinical applications and theory building. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).


  • Saint-Aubin, Jean
  • Voyer, Daniel
  • Saint Aubin, Jean
  • Altman, Katelyn
  • Gallant, Genevieve

publication date

  • April 2021