April 27, 2004
Women Remember Physical Appearances Better Than Men Do

Women remember physical appearances better than men do and both men and women remember the appearances women more than they remember the appearances of men.

The gender difference in appearance memory was not great, but it shows another area where women are superior to men in interpersonal sensitivity, said Terrence Horgan, lead author of the study and research fellow in psychology at Ohio State University.

“Women have an advantage when it comes to remembering things like the physical features, clothing and postures of other people,” Horgan said. “This advantage might be due to women being slightly more people-oriented than men are.”

The study also found that both men and women did better at remembering the appearance of women than they did remembering how men looked.

The appearance of women may be more memorable because women try to look different from each other.

Women in general may be more memorable than men because their hair and clothing styles and use of jewelry tends to be more varied than that of men. For example, in many offices men may look similar in their suits and ties. But women may be wearing necklaces and earrings, or have other jewelry or clothing that makes their appearance stand out more, Horgan said.

However, the results suggest women aren’t more memorable because people spend more time looking at them. The researchers measured how long participants in the last three studies looked directly at their partners. Overall, the participants didn’t look at women any longer than they looked at men.

Women are known to be better at reading body language and facial expressions. So they tend to focus more on visible qualities of a person.

For example, other studies have shown women have an advantage at using nonverbal cues to understand how others are feeling, and how they are likely to behave. Women also appear to be better at using nonverbal cues to understand someone’s personality traits.

Another reason that women may do a better job at remembering the appearance of other women than men do of remembering the appearance of other men is that heterosexual women are more sexually aroused by the sight of other women than heterosexual men are at the sight of other men. It would be interesting to see these researchers repeat their study using homosexuals and heterosexuals split out separately. It would also be interesting to see whether more variation in the men's clothing and less variation in the women's clothing would influence the outcome.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 April 27 12:13 PM  Brain Sex Differences

Bob Badour said at May 5, 2004 9:57 PM:

From a very politically incorrect and insensitive standpoint, this different makes perfect evolutionary sense. Women have a much greater need to recognize their child's father at a later date than men have of recognizing the two-bagger from six months ago.

someone said at February 15, 2007 4:48 AM:


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