How Important Is the Digital Divide? The Relation of Computer and Videogame Usage to Gender Differences in Mental Rotation Ability

Abstract

Researchers interested in the associations of gender with spatial experience and spatial ability have not yet focused on several activities that have become common in the modern digital age. In this study, using a new questionnaire called the Survey of Spatial Representation and Activities (SSRA), we examined spatial experiences with computers and videogames in a sample of nearly 1,300 undergraduate students. Large gender differences, which favored men, were found in computer experience. Although men and women also differed on SAT scores, gender differences in computer experience were still apparent with SAT factored out. Furthermore, men and women with high and low levels of computer experience, who were selected for more intensive study, were found to differ significantly on the Mental Rotations Test (MRT). Path analyses showed that computer experience substantially mediates the gender difference in spatial ability observed on the MRT. These results collectively suggest that the “Digital Divide” is an important phenomenon and that encouraging women and girls to gain spatial experiences, such as computer usage, might help to bridge the gap in spatial ability between the sexes.

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Correspondence to Nora S. Newcombe.

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Terlecki, M.S., Newcombe, N.S. How Important Is the Digital Divide? The Relation of Computer and Videogame Usage to Gender Differences in Mental Rotation Ability. Sex Roles 53, 433–441 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-005-6765-0

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Keywords

  • gender differences
  • spatial ability
  • mental rotation
  • computer experience