Intuition & Awareness

Boys Aren’t Born With Any Better Spatial Reasoning Than Girls

Boys Aren’t Born With Any Better Spatial Reasoning Than Girls

Men aren’t born with better spatial reasoning than women are, a new meta-analysis suggests.

It is well-established that, on average, men outperform women on a spatial reasoning task known as mental rotation—imagining multi-dimensional objects from different points of view.

The new research, however, indicates that males gain a slight advantage in mental-rotation performance during the first years of formal schooling, and this advantage slowly grows with age, tripling in size by the end of adolescence.

“Some researchers have argued that there is an intrinsic gender difference in spatial reasoning—that boys are naturally better at it than girls,” says lead author Jillian Lauer, who is set to graduate from Emory in May with a PhD in psychology.

It takes most of childhood and adolescence for the gender gap in spatial skills to reach the size of the difference seen in adulthood.

“While our results don’t exclude any possibility that biological influences contribute to the gender gap, they suggest that other factors may be more important in driving the gender difference in spatial skills during childhood.”

The meta-analysis included 128 studies of gender differences in spatial reasoning, combining statistics on more than 30,000 children and adolescents aged three to 18 years. The authors found no gender difference in mental-rotation skills among preschoolers, but a small male advantage emerged in children between the ages of six and eight.

While differences in verbal and mathematical abilities between men and women tend to be small or non-existent, twice as many men as women are top performers in mental rotation, making it one of the largest gender differences in cognition.

Mental rotation is considered one of the hallmarks of spatial reasoning. “If you’re packing your suitcase and trying to figure out how each item can fit within that space, or you’re building furniture based on a diagram, you’re likely engaged in mental rotation, imagining how different objects can rotate to fit together,” Lauer explains.

“We’re interested in the origins of gender differences in spatial skills because of their potential role in the gender gap we see in math and science fields.”


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Prior research has also shown that superior spatial skills predict success in male-dominated science, technology engineering and math fields, and that the gender difference in spatial reasoning may contribute to the gender disparity in these STEM fields.

“We’re interested in the origins of gender differences in spatial skills because of their potential role in the gender gap we see in math and science fields,” Lauer says. “By determining when the gender difference can first be detected in childhood and how it changes with age, we may be able to develop ways to make educational systems more equitable.”

It takes most of childhood and adolescence for the gender gap in spatial skills to reach the size of the difference seen in adulthood, Lauer says. She adds that the meta-analysis did not address causes for why the gender gap for mental rotation emerges and grows.

Lauer notes that previous research has shown that parents use more spatial language when they talk to preschool sons than daughters. Studies have also found that girls report more anxiety about having to perform spatial tasks than do boys by first grade, and that children are aware of gender stereotypes about spatial intelligence during elementary school.

“Now that we’ve characterized how gender differences in spatial reasoning skills develop in children over time we can start to hone in on the reasons for those differences,” Lauer says.

Meanwhile, she adds, parents may want to be aware to encourage both their daughters and sons to play with blocks and other construction items that might help in the development of spatial reasoning skills, since evidence shows that these skills can be improved with training.

“Giving both girls and boys more opportunities to develop their spatial skills is something that parents and educators have the power to do,” Lauer says.

The research appears in the Psychological Bulletin.

Source: Emory University

Related Books

at InnerSelf Market and Amazon

 

More Articles By This Author

You May Also Like

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

MOST READ

spreading disease at home 11 26
Why Our Homes Became COVID Hotspots
by Becky Tunstall
While staying home protected many of us from catching COVID at work, at school, at the shops or…
grieving for pet 11 26
How to Help Grieve the Loss of a Beloved Family Pet
by Melissa Starling
It’s been three weeks since my partner and I lost our beloved 14.5-year-old dog, Kivi Tarro. It’s…
a man and woman in a kayak
Being in the Flow of Your Soul Mission and Life Purpose
by Kathryn Hudson
When our choices distance us from our soul mission, something inside us suffers. There is no logic…
How Culture Informs The Emotions You Feel To Music
How Culture Informs The Emotions You Feel To Music
by George Athanasopoulos and Imre Lahdelma
I have conducted research in locations like Papua New Guinea, Japan and Greece. The truth is…
two climbers, with one giving the other a helping hand
Why Doing Good Deeds Is Good For You
by Michael Glauser
What happens to the doers of good deeds? Numerous studies confirm that those who regularly engage…
moving back home is not failing 11 15
Why Moving Back Home Doesn’t Mean You’ve Failed
by Rosie Alexander
The idea that young people’s futures are best served by moving away from small towns and rural…
child listening intently wearing headset
Why Certain Types of Music Make Our Brains Sing
by Guilhem Marion
If one presented you with a unknown melody and suddenly stopped it, you could be able to sing the…
grey-haired woman wearing funky pink sunglasses singing holding a microphone
Putting on the Ritz and Improving Well-Being
by Julia Brook and Colleen Renihan
Digital programming and virtual interactions, initially considered to be stop-gap measures during…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.