Background: Laparoscopic surgery requires surgeons to infer the shape of 3-D structures, such as the internal organs of patients, from 2-D displays on a video monitor. Recent evidence indicates that the issue is not resolved by the use of contemporary 3-D camera systems. It is therefore crucial to find ways of measuring differences in aptitude for recovering 3-D structure from 2-D images, and assessing its impact on performance. Our aim was to test empirically for a relationship between laparoscopic ability and the perceptual skill of recovering information about 3-D structures from 2-D monitor displays. Methods: Participants in three studies completed a simulated laparoscopic cutting task as well as the Pictorial Surface Orientation (PicSOr)3 Test. In studies 1 (n = 48) and 2 (n = 32) both groups were laparoscopic novices, and in study 3 (n = 34) 18 of the participants were experienced laparoscopic surgeons. Findings: All three studies showed that PicSOr consistently predicted the laparoscopic performance of participants on the laparoscopic cutting task (study 1, r = 0.5, p < 0.0003; study 2, r = 0.5, p < 0.004; and study 3, r = 0.42, p = 0.017). Furthermore, it was also a significant predictor of laparoscopic surgeons’ performance (r = 0.54, p = 0.047). Interpretations: This is the first objective perceptual psychometric test to reliably predict laparoscopic technical skills. PicSOr provides a tool for assessing which trainees have the potential to learn minimal access surgery.