Do women remember better than men do? Research shows that females may have an advantage when it comes to episodic memory, a type of long-term memory based on personal experiences. A Swedish team of psychologists showed, for example, that women are better on average than men at remembering faces, particularly female faces. These findings may have an evolutionary explanation that is rooted in female-female competition, says David C. Geary, a psychologist at the University of Missouri–Columbia who was not involved with the study. “Women certainly fought and continue to fight over the best guys ... those with good genes and resources to invest in kids,” Geary says. Remembering details of personal experiences is important for monitoring and maneuvering relationships, including disrupting the social and romantic ties of other women who are competitors, he says. Previous studies have shown that women also have a superior memory for verbal information, which they may use to dissect a person’s underlying motives or intentions—a skill that, according to Geary, “seems to elude many men.”

This story was originally printed with the title, "She Never Forgets a Face".