, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 177-192

Visuospatial Performance on an Internet Line Judgment Task and Potential Hormonal Markers: Sex, Sexual Orientation, and 2D:4D

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Abstract

We investigated whether performance on a visuospatial line judgment task, the Judgment of Line Angle and Position-15 test (JLAP-15), showed evidence of sensitivity to early sex steroid exposure by examining how it related to sex, as well as to sexual orientation and 2D:4D digit ratios. Participants were drawn from a large Internet study with over 250,000 participants. In the main sample (ages 12–58 years), males outperformed females on the JLAP-15, showing a moderate effect size for sex. In agreement with a prenatal sex hormone hypothesis, line judgment accuracy in adults related to 2D:4D and sexual orientation, both of which are postulated to be influenced by early steroids. In both sexes, better visuospatial performance was associated with lower (more male-typical) digit ratios. For men, heterosexual participants outperformed homosexual/bisexual participants on the JLAP-15 and, for women, homosexual/bisexual participants outperformed heterosexual participants. In children aged 8–10 years, presumed to be a largely prepubertal group, boys also outperformed girls. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that visuospatial ability is influenced by early sex steroids, although they do not rule out alternative explanations or additional influences. More broadly, such results support a prenatal sex hormone hypothesis that degree of androgen exposure may influence the neural circuitry underlying cognition (visuospatial ability) and sexual orientation as well as aspects of somatic (digit ratio) development.