Sex differences in parking are affected by biological and social factors
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- Wolf, C.C., Ocklenburg, S., Ören, B. et al. Psychological Research (2010) 74: 429. doi:10.1007/s00426-009-0267-6
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The stereotype of women’s limited parking skills is deeply anchored in modern culture. Although laboratory tests prove men’s average superiority in visuospatial tasks and parking requires complex, spatial skills, underlying mechanisms remain unexplored. Here, we investigated performance of beginners (nine women, eight men) and more experienced drivers (21 women, 27 men) at different parking manoeuvres. Furthermore, subjects conducted the mental rotation test and self-assessed their parking skills. We show that men park more accurately and especially faster than women. Performance is related to mental rotation skills and self-assessment in beginners, but only to self-assessment in more experienced drivers. We assume that, due to differential feedback, self-assessment incrementally replaces the controlling influence of mental rotation, as parking is trained with increasing experience. Results suggest that sex differences in spatial cognition persist in real-life situations, but that socio-psychological factors modulate the biological causes of sex differences.