2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


NEWCOMBE, Nora S., Psychology, Temple University, 565 Weiss Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122, newcombe@temple.edu

Sex differences in spatial functioning are real. Studies using standardized tests have found that the average American man has an ability to perform mental rotation of a three-dimensional object that exceeds that of the average American woman by half a standard deviation or more. There are similarly substantial sex-related differences on tests of mechanical reasoning. Furthermore, these differences are often most marked at the upper end of the distribution. Such differences have been found to be relevant to success in science for men and women, both because mathematical ability may rest partially on spatial ability, and also because spatial visualization is directly relevant to achievement in many scientific and technical fields, including physical science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Sadly, these “facts” reflexively evoke in most people two unwarranted assumptions: that any sex-related differences are biologically caused, and that they are hence immutable. This talk will critique each of these assumptions.