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Running head: The differences in visual spatial ability among females and males
The differences in visual spatial ability among females and males:
Does practice have an effect on performance?
Scott D. Singleton
Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire
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Many scientists have studied the sex differences in spatial abilities. Different designs of testing have been used to test this subject. A simple Mental Rotation Test (MRT) was designed to test the spatial abilities of males verse females in identifying rotated objects. The test consisted of two trials to measure whether practice had an effect on performance. Nine males and 30 females participated in the spatial rotation test. Regardless of trials males perform significantly higher in spatial rotation tasks then females. The effect of trials had a positive effect on females and no effect on males. Female’s scores increased after the first trial. Where as male’s scores stayed consistent from trial one and trial two. The results suggest that male’s complete spatial visualization task more accurately then females, although female’s accuracy improves with practice.
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The differences in visual spatial ability among females and males
Does Practice have an effect on performance
Throughout the past few decades Scientists have been studying spatial visualization among males and females. In many cases, males score significantly higher in this area and in others reports show no significant difference between males and females scores but do report that scores were higher in a specific gender. One of these studies is Schaefer and Thomas’s (1998) study on spatial tasks and sex differences in gains from practice, tested college students on recognition of a rotated figure embedded in pictures. Although Schaefer and Thomas’s (1998) results do not show a significant difference for females verse males, figures showed males scored higher numbers during testing.
Studies have been done using different difficulty levels of spatial rotation testing and have come up with statistics supporting males’ abilities being higher then females. Goldstein, Haldane, and Mitchell (1990) studied the difference of visual spatial ability between male and female math students using the Mental Rotation test. They ran two studies, one with timed and untimed testing, and one with a group of individuals that scored highly in quantitative problem solving. Within the group of individuals that had high quantitative problem solving skills the males scored significantly higher in visual spatial recognition. Within the second test group involving time an untimed testing, males scored significantly higher then females in the timed testing section. There was no difference found in visual spatial ability between males and females during the untimed testing (Goldstein, Haldane, Mitchell 1990).
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Studies comparing the gender and visual spatial recognition along with different fields of study; Peters, Laeng, Jackson, Zaiyouna, and Richardson (1995) conducted a spatial visualization test using a duplicated version of Vandenberg and Kuse’s (1978), MRT test and several different groups. In one test they compared male’s performance to female’s performance between students from the humanities field to those from the social sciences field. This study showed that males perform spatial rotational task significantly better then females in both areas of study. In the study both males from the humanities program and those from the social sciences program had significantly higher scores than the females from those departments. Their results were similar to those of Goldstein, Haldane, and Mitchell’s (1990) findings with the males verse females in the spatial visualization tasks (Peters, Laeng, Jackson, Zaiyouna, and Richardson 1995).
Delgado and Prieto (1996) ran a 2×2 (gender and time) spatial visualization test. Using male and female high school seniors. To measure their spatial visualization abilities, “Two Psychometric test were selected from Eliot and Smith’s (1983) directory: The RFM test (Yela 1968), which is the Spanish adaptation of the Rotation of Solid Figures developed by Thurstone and Thurstone (1949) a 3-D mental rotation test, loading in the factor of spatial relations”, as cited in (Delgado and Prieto 1996 p.506).
The experiment I ran is closely related to Vandenberg and Kuse’s study done in 1978. Vandenberg and Kuse (1978) studied spatial visualization ability among females and males in three different age groups, University students, high school students and
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elementary school students. They measured this using a paper and pencil test of spatial visualization that was constructed from two dimensional drawings of three dimensional figures which were taken from the chronometric study of Shepard and Metzler (1971) as cited in (Vandenberg and Kuse 1978). A consistent sex difference over the entire range of ages was found and the visual spatial ability was found to be significantly higher in males over females for all three age groups. (Vandenberg and Kuse 1978).
With in my test I expect to find a difference in the visual spatial ability of males verse females. Males should perform significantly higher then females. In this study I also look for the effect of practice and whether or not it has a positive effect in increasing the accuracy of the score and if there is a difference in practice effect on males verse females.
Thirty female and 9 male undergraduate students from the three Research Methods Lab courses at Keene State College participated in the experiment as part of their course requirements. All were between the ages of 19 and 48 with a (mean age of 21.8 years), also all have some interest in the field of Psychology and will receive participation points towards their grade in research methods course.
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Copies of Vandenberg and Kuse’s Mental Rotation Test designed at the University of Colorado, July15, 1971 and revised by H. Crawford of University of Wyoming September, 1979 were given out to each participant. Copies were made on white paper with a photocopier. A sample section was included in the test along with instructions. The test consisted of several two-dimensional drawings of 10 cubes attached to each other and rotated in different directions. The only difference between the original cube series and the new selections is that they are presented at different angles. Two out of the four cube selections can be matched to the original and two can not be matched. The test had two parts, with three minutes to complete each of the two parts. A stopwatch was used to time each section and the break between each section. Each part had two pages with five sets of the cube selections on each page. Making the total number of series selections being 10 for each section. A score sheet was used to collect data.
Participants all received a test packet consisting of the materials. Participants completed the test within the same room and were seated next to each other in a half circle formation. Participants were asked to read the instructions printed on the packet and begin the practice test. The students were instructed to stop when finished the
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practice section of the test. Before starting the main section of the test, participants were asked to work as quickly as they could with out making mistakes. Participants were given 3 minutes to complete the first section with a one-minute brake before going on to the second section. Students were asked to wait till instructed to start the second section if they finished the first before the end of the 3 minutes. Participants were instructed to start at the same time to avoid validity problems also the sections were completed in the same order for each participant, the first section being first and the second section being last. Once instructed to go on to the second section they were given 3 minutes to finish. After the time was up participants were asked to exchange packets with each other and then were given a score sheet. Students used the score sheet to evaluate their answers. Scoring was based on correct and incorrect answers, for every wrong answer participants would subtract a point from the total number of correct answers. The subtraction is to correct the 50% chance of being correct in guesswork.
The dependent variable was the number of correct scores on the MRT test. There was two independent variables, gender and Practice. A two-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to measure the results between practice and genders. Gender was analyzed to see if there was a difference in males ability to recognize visual spatial stimuli over females abilities to recognize visual spatial stimuli. The trials were analyzed to see if practice had an effect on increasing the ability to recognize visual spatial stimuli.
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Results showed that males scored significantly higher than females in both trials with a mean of 12.77 for the first trial and a mean of 9.77 for the second trial. Females scored significantly lower with a mean score of 9.18 for the first trial and a mean of 7.66 for the second trial. The main effect for gender was F (1, 37) = 4.269, P * .05.
There was a no significant difference between males and females for practice. The mean for the first trial was 10.01 and the mean for the second trial was 8.15. Showing that practice did not have an effect in increasing the scores of males or females. The results were F (1, 37)=9.575, P* .01.
The graph in figure 1. shows the results of gender differences between males and females. The graph in figure 2. shows the results for practice effect on males and females.
My data shows that there are sex differences in visual spatial abilities with, males scoring higher on spatial visualization task then do females. This is seen in the mean scores produced by participants scoring of the MRT test. However Practice had no effect on increasing the ability to complete visual spatial tasks. Some internal validity issues that could be looked at are number of participants in each gender. The fact that there were a significantly higher number of female participants then males might effect the score results. An equal number of both male and female participants might have an effect on the results and would represent male scores more accurately. Even though the male representation was not equal to that of the female representation the results can be. Differences in Visual Spatial 9
compared to that of Vandenberg and Kuse (1978), Peters, Laeng, Latham, jackson, Zaiyouna, and Richardson (1995), Delgado and Prieto (1996), Goldstein, Haldane, and Mitchell (1990). All the results show that males perform spatial visualization task with a better accuracy then females.
Figure 1. Graph showing the results of gender differences between males and females.
Figure 2. Graph showing the results for practice effect on males and females.