Remember Me? The Role of Gender and Racial Attributes in Memory
24 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2022
Remembering people is at the core of many social and economic relationships. We present evidence from two experiments showing systematic biases in the way we remember people. The first experiment examines memory in a real professional setting (Academia). Conference participants were asked to recall ‘who presented what’ a month after attending research conferences. The second experiment is a controlled computer-based version of the field: Participants are shown pictures of people, matched with the title of a paper. In the second experiment, we exogenously vary the relative shares of women and non-white individuals. We find evidence that women and, to a lesser extent, ethnic minorities are more likely to be recalled in settings where they are in a minority. In contrast, they are more likely to be confused with each other. These findings are in line with the theory of categorisation and with a distinctiveness. People with minority attributes appear to be categorised according to these attributes, and are “blended together”. In settings where there are few minorities, recall is enhanced. In settings where there are more of them, this leads to confusion. We conjecture that these biases in remembering could have important implications for the formation of professional networks.
Keywords: discrimination, gender, race, memory, experiment
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