Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 427-436

The effect of speed-accuracy tradeoff on sex differences in mental rotation

  • David F. LohmanAffiliated with366 Lindquist Center, The University of Iowa


This experiment examined the effects of sex differences in the form of speed-accuracy curves on sex differences in rate of mental rotation. Eighty-nine subjects attempted 1,200 rotation problems similar to those used by Shepard and Metzler (1971). Stimulus exposure was varied systematically over a wide range, and response accuracy was determined at each exposure. Speed-accuracy curves were then fit using an exponential function similar to one proposed by Wickelgren (1977). Results showed that apparent differences between males and females in rate of rotation are explained by sex differences in the shape of the speed-accuracy curves, with females reaching asymptote sooner on trials requiring more rotation. Similar effects were obtained in a comparison of subjects high and low in spatial ability.