The purpose of the present study was to test the hypothesis that environmental factors affect the magnitude of gender differences in spatial performance only when the tasks used are susceptible to the influence of such factors. Two hundred and ninety White middle-class undergraduate students (165 females, 125 males) completed the Vandenberg and Kuse Mental Rotations Test (MRT), a paper and pencil version of the Water Level Task (WLT), and toys and sports preference questionnaires. Results revealed that males outperformed females on both spatial tests. In addition, a main effect of toys preference showed that participants with a spatial toys preference outperformed those with a nonspatial preference on both the MRT and the WLT. This main effect was qualified by an interaction between this factor and gender. The interaction was found only on the WLT and showed that gender differences were only significant in participants with a nonspatial preference. An interaction of sports preference and gender was also observed. This interaction revealed that, in contrast to what was obtained with toys, gender differences on both spatial tests were significant only in participants with a spatial sports preference. Implications of these findings with regard to the development of gender differences in spatial abilities are discussed.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 16, 2004
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