Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 990–997

Sex Differences in Mental Rotation and Line Angle Judgments Are Positively Associated with Gender Equality and Economic Development Across 53 Nations

  • Richard A. Lippa
  • Marcia L. Collaer
  • Michael Peters
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10508-008-9460-8

Cite this article as:
Lippa, R.A., Collaer, M.L. & Peters, M. Arch Sex Behav (2010) 39: 990. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9460-8


Mental rotation and line angle judgment performance were assessed in more than 90,000 women and 111,000 men from 53 nations. In all nations, men’s mean performance exceeded women’s on these two visuospatial tasks. Gender equality (as assessed by United Nations indices) and economic development (as assessed by per capita income and life expectancy) were significantly associated, across nations, with larger sex differences, contrary to the predictions of social role theory. For both men and women, across nations, gender equality and economic development were significantly associated with better performance on the two visuospatial tasks. However, these associations were stronger for the mental rotation task than for the line angle judgment task, and they were stronger for men than for women. Results were discussed in terms of evolutionary, social role, and stereotype threat theories of sex differences.


Evolutionary theorySex differencesSocial role theoryStereotype threat theoryVisuospatial ability

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Lippa
    • 1
  • Marcia L. Collaer
    • 2
  • Michael Peters
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCalifornia State University, FullertonFullertonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Program in NeuroscienceMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada