Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 261-268

First online:

The Hunter-Gatherer Theory of Sex Differences in Spatial Abilities: Data from 40 Countries

  • Irwin SilvermanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, York University Email author 
  • , Jean ChoiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Lethbridge
  • , Michael PetersAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Guelph

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This study used some of the data from the BBC Internet study to assess the universality of sex related spatial competencies, as these are described in the terms of Silverman and Eals’ (1992) hunter-gatherer theory of human spatial sex differences. As predicted, men scored significantly higher than women on a test of three-dimensional mental rotations in all seven ethnic groups and 40 countries used. Close to prediction, women scored significantly higher than men on a test of object location memory in all seven ethnic groups and 35 of the 40 countries. The data were discussed in terms of their implications for research approaches in this area and a paradigm for future studies was proposed, based on the interaction of innate and environmental factors in the ontogenetic development of spatial sex differences.


Sex differences Spatial abilities Evolutionary theory Hunter-gatherer Mental rotations Object location memory