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Sex & Spatial Thinking

September 15, 2011

Gender differences in spatial reasoning abilities may be strongly influenced by culture.



Sex and spatial thinking.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Men often perform better than women on visual-spatial tasks.  But biology alone may not explain it.  University of California at San Diego researcher Moshe Hoffman and his colleagues studied two genetically similar tribes from Northeast India.  The Karbi society is male-dominated, but among the Khasi, women inherit property and anchor households.  People from each tribe were given a visual-spatial puzzle.

MOSHE HOFFMAN (University of California, San Diego)

It really requires having to kind of visualize how the pieces will put together if you rotate them. And what we find is that among the Karbi, it takes women significantly longer than men, I think something like 1-1/2 times longer, whereas among the Khasi, there’s no gender difference.


Education proved to be an advantage in both groups.  Hoffman says this suggest that society may play a bigger role in this gender difference than we thought.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.