Sex Roles

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 327–344

The role of experience in spatial test performance: A meta-analysis


  • Maryann Baenninger
    • Department of PsychologyTemple University
  • Nora Newcombe
    • Department of PsychologyTemple University

DOI: 10.1007/BF00287729

Cite this article as:
Baenninger, M. & Newcombe, N. Sex Roles (1989) 20: 327. doi:10.1007/BF00287729


The hypothesis that spatial ability is, in part, experientially determined, and that sex differences in spatial ability can be explained by sex differences in spatial experience, can be studied in a correlational manner by examining the relationship between spatial activity participation and spatial ability test performance for males and females. Alternatively, an experimental training situation, comparing male and female susceptibility to training, has been proposed to test the hypothesis that environment has an impact on spatial skills and sex differences in ability. Both lines of research are reviewed here, through the use of meta-analytic techniques. The first meta-analysis reveals a weak but reliable relationship between spatial activity participation and spatial ability. This relationship appears similar for males and females. The second meta-analysis reveals that spatial ability test performance can be improved by training for both sexes. This improvement does not appear different for males and females, however, contrary to a predominant hypothesis in the literature. Training to asymptote may be a better test of the relevance of differential experience to sex differences. Content and duration of training are also discussed as important factors in the effectiveness of training.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989