Long Memories and Short Fuses; Biological Predisposition Endows Women with Unique abilities.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 29, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Long Memories and Short Fuses; Biological Predisposition Endows Women with Unique abilities.(OPED)


Byline: Suzanne Fields, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Let's face it, ladies. We must have been born with some of the DNA of an elephant. Not in trunk or shape, but with the pachyderm's memory.

Science confirms what every husband and wife know from personal experience. A wife recalls every argument in photographic detail, where they had it and how he started it, details that long ago slipped from his memory bank. She can (and does) play back the name and vital statistics of every girlfriend he ever had, with specifics of hair color (bottle platinum or hussy red), fashion taste (tacky or tight) and body flaws and worse, attributes (of ankles, chest, face, chin).

That's why women win most of the verbal battles and men clam up rather than compete in their own defeat. ("How can I argue with her about the details," asks one exasperated male friend of mine, "when I don't even remember the argument?") Women also do better on scientific verbal measurements than men. This is a carefully cultivated self-defense with a biological edge in the competition where the fittest survive.

The researchers, who calculated that female memories are 10 to 15 percentage points more accurate in recalling emotionally charged events, required magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs, to determine exactly how male and female brains are wired differently. Most women understand that their better memories of incidents and experiences are simply powerful arrows to use in the endless war between the sexes. It's what makes women the warrior equivalents of the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, George Washington at Valley Forge, Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg (and Robert E. Lee at Chancellorsville).

Such differences, of course, aren't all female advantages. A little forgetfulness enables men to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with greater cool. In this study, for example, men who looked at a picture of a gun described it in neutral language. Women recalled it as "highly negative," emotionally intense, exasperatingly charged. Men saw it as a metal tool.

"For pictures that were highly emotional, men recalled around 60 percent and women were at about 75 percent," says one of the researchers, whose study was published by the National Academy of Science. The research supports many of the melodramatic cliches of sexual politics: the talkative broad and the silent cowboy, the ditzy dame and the ruthless rogue.

Naturally, we can all come up with lots of exceptions, both from literature and real life, where men had the longer memories and women were reticent in their modesty.

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