Androgens and eye movements in women and men during a test of mental rotation ability
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Eye movements were monitored in 16 women and 20 men during completion of a standard diagram-based test of mental rotation ability to provide measures of cognitive function not requiring conscious, decisional processes. Overall, women and men allocated visual attention during task performance in very similar, systematic ways. However, consistent with previous suggestions that sex differences in attentional processes during completion of the mental rotation task may exist, eye movements in men compared to women indicated greater discrimination and longer processing of correct alternatives during task performance. Other findings suggested that androgens may enhance cognitive processes that are recruited differentially by women and men as a function of the task. Specifically, smaller (i.e., more masculine) digit ratios were associated with men's shorter fixations on distracters, suggesting that perinatal androgen action may influence brain systems that facilitate the identification of relevant task stimuli. In women, higher circulating testosterone levels appeared to contribute to more general processes engaged during task performance, for example higher levels of visual persistence. It is possible that variability in the relative contribution of such hormone sensitive cognitive processes to accuracy scores as a function of different sample characteristics or assessment methods may partially account for the inconsistent findings of previous research on hormonal factors in mental rotation ability.
author list (cited authors)
Alexander, G. M., & Son, T.