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Task Demand Influences Relationships Among Sex, Clustering Strategy, and Recall: 16-Word Versus 9-Word List Learning Tests

Sunderaraman, Preeti BA*; Blumen, Helena M. PhD; DeMatteo, David PhD*; Apa, Zoltan L. BA; Cosentino, Stephanie PhD§,∥

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: June 2013 - Volume 26 - Issue 2 - p 78–84
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e31829de450
Original Studies

Objective: We compared the relationships among sex, clustering strategy, and recall across different task demands using the 16-word California Verbal Learning Test-Second Edition (CVLT-II) and the 9-word Philadelphia (repeatable) Verbal Learning Test (PrVLT).

Background: Women generally score higher than men on verbal memory tasks, possibly because women tend to use semantic clustering. This sex difference has been established via word-list learning tests such as the CVLT-II.

Methods: In a retrospective between-group study, we compared how 2 separate groups of cognitively healthy older adults performed on a longer and a shorter verbal learning test. The group completing the CVLT-II had 36 women and 26 men; the group completing the PrVLT had 27 women and 21 men.

Results: Overall, multiple regression analyses revealed that semantic clustering was significantly associated with total recall on both tests’ lists (P<0.001). Sex differences in recall and semantic clustering diminished with the shorter PrVLT word list.

Conclusions: Semantic clustering uniquely influenced recall on both the longer and shorter word lists. However, serial clustering and sex influenced recall depending on the length of the word list (ie, the task demand). These findings suggest a complex nonlinear relationship among verbal memory, clustering strategies, and task demand.

*Department of Psychology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY

School of Nursing, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY

§The Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, The Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, New York, NY

Department of Neurology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

P.S., S.C., and H.M.B. conceived and designed the study. S.C., H.M.B., P.S., and Z.A. collected the data. P.S., S.C., H.M.B., and D.DeM. analyzed and interpreted the data.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Stephanie Cosentino, PhD, Department of Neurology, Columbia University Medical Center, 630 West 168th Street, P&S Box 16, New York, NY 10032 (e-mail:

Received June 14, 2012

Accepted February 7, 2013

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.