Cognitive Processing

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 201–204 | Cite as

Explaining sex differences in mental rotation: role of spatial activity experience

  • Alina NazarethEmail author
  • Asiel Herrera
  • Shannon M. Pruden
Short Report


Males consistently outperform females on mental rotation tasks, such as the Vandenberg and Kuse (1978) Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47(2), 599–604, mental rotation test (MRT; e.g. Voyer et al. 1995) in Psychological Bulletin, 117, 250–265. The present study investigates whether these sex differences in MRT scores can be explained in part by early spatial activity experience, particularly those spatial activities that have been sex-typed as masculine/male-oriented. Utilizing an online survey, 571 ethnically diverse adult university students completed a brief demographic survey, an 81-item spatial activity survey, and the MRT. Results suggest that the significant relation between sex of the participant and MRT score is partially mediated by the number of masculine spatial activities participants had engaged in as youth. Closing the gap between males and females in spatial ability, a skill linked to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics success, may be accomplished in part by encouraging female youth to engage in more particular kinds of spatial activities.


Mental rotation Sex difference Spatial activity Spatial thinking 



The writing of this paper was supported by a generous grant to Dr. Shannon Pruden and the Project on Language and Spatial Development ( from The Ware Foundation, Miami, FL (


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alina Nazareth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Asiel Herrera
    • 1
  • Shannon M. Pruden
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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