Sex differences in confidence and memory

(1) Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville, Arkansas, (2) College of Education and Health Professions, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas
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Eyewitness testimony is important for solving crimes, but it is often subject to inaccuracy, leading to wrongful convictions and acquittal. A better understanding of the characteristics of reliable witnesses is needed, including whether a witness's confidence indicates accuracy. Prior studies have conflicted over whether males or females tend to exhibit greater accuracy or confidence in their memories. Therefore, we conducted an original experiment to study sex differences in confidence and memory. We recruited a convenience sample of 328 individuals and assessed them using an online portal. We showed participants objects and subsequently tested their memory of the color of each object. We also asked participants to rate their confidence. Results showed that males were more confident than females regarding their memories. However, females correctly recalled more objects than males. In a multivariable logistic regression model, being female was associated with 1.78 times the odds of correctly identifying two or more objects (95% confidence interval = 1.08, 2.92). However, age and confidence were not significantly associated with identifying more correct objects. Results were consistent in additional analyses. These results suggest that though males tend to be more confident regarding their memories, they may in fact remember fewer details. While this information may be useful to individuals who work in crime scene recall settings—such as police, lawyers, and judges—more research would be useful to confirm these findings before making systematic changes.

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