Blocks and bodies: Sex differences in a novel version of the Mental Rotations Test
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A novel version of the Mental Rotations Test (MRT) that alternated the standard block figures with three-dimensional human figures was administered to 99 men and 129 women. Women and men differed predictably in their retrospective reports of childhood play and digit ratios, a putative measure of prenatal androgen action. Compared to the block figure items, human figure items on the modified MRT were associated with an improvement in performance in both sexes. However, consistent with the study hypothesis, the enhancing effect of the human figure condition on performance as measured by conventional scores was smaller in men compared to women and not at all evident in men when performance was measured by ratio scores. A closer inspection of the human figures effects on test scores showed performance in women improved for both male and female figure items. In contrast, relative to scores on block figure items, performance in men improved when stimuli were male figures but did not improve when stimuli were female figures. These results add to the evidence that the magnitude of sex differences in scores on the MRT may vary according to the test content and item properties. The findings suggest that online measures of cognitive processing in response to different classes of test stimuli (e.g., animate vs. inanimate objects, self-relevant vs. neutral stimuli) may prove useful in research aimed at understanding the hormonal and social factors contributing to the sex difference in performance on the MRT.
author list (cited authors)
Alexander, G. M., & Evardone, M.