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PLoS One. 2013 May 15;8(5):e64030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064030. Print 2013.

Her voice lingers on and her memory is strategic: effects of gender on directed forgetting.

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Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University, Singapore.


The literature on directed forgetting has employed exclusively visual words. Thus, the potentially interesting aspects of a spoken utterance, which include not only vocal cues (e.g., prosody) but also the speaker and the listener, have been neglected. This study demonstrates that prosody alone does not influence directed-forgetting effects, while the sex of the speaker and the listener significantly modulate directed-forgetting effects for spoken utterances. Specifically, forgetting costs were attenuated for female-spoken items compared to male-spoken items, and forgetting benefits were eliminated among female listeners but not among male listeners. These results suggest that information conveyed in a female voice draws attention to its distinct perceptual attributes, thus interfering with retention of the semantic meaning, while female listeners' superior capacity for processing the surface features of spoken utterances may predispose them to spontaneously employ adaptive strategies to retain content information despite distraction by perceptual features. Our findings underscore the importance of sex differences when processing spoken messages in directed forgetting.

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