, Volume 43, Issue 5-6, pp 359-376

Gender Differences in Spatial Task Performance as a Function of Speed or Accuracy Orientation

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Performance differences in spatial abilities as a function of gender may be modified by practice and relevant background experiences, as well as by directions given in laboratory situations. We examined whether a focus on speed or accuracy influenced performance in various spatial domains, using several different scoring techniques. Men and women from a small, predominantly White private college completed tasks of spatial perception, spatial visualization, and mental rotation under one of three conditions: speed-emphasis, accuracy-emphasis, or control. Participants also provided information concerning experiences pertinent to spatial ability. Results revealed relative parity between men and women on tasks of spatial visualization and spatial perception; speed/accuracy orientation did not alter these findings. Men outperformed women on mental rotation, but only when scored in a strict manner and when explicitly told to focus on accuracy, but not when directional emphasis was absent or geared toward speed. Self-reported background in math, sports, and the arts was unrelated to performance. The results are discussed in terms of women's efficacy beliefs about performing tasks explicitly designated as spatial in nature.