The evolution of sex differences in spatial ability

Behav Neurosci. 2003 Jun;117(3):403-11. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.117.3.403.


It is widely believed that male mammals have better spatial ability than females. A large number of evolutionary hypotheses have been proposed to explain these differences, but few species have been tested. The authors critically review the proposed evolutionary explanations for sex differences in spatial cognition and conclude that most of the hypotheses are either logically flawed or, as yet, have no substantial support. Few of the data exclusively support or exclude any current hypotheses. The hypothesis with the strongest support proposes that range size was the selection pressure that acted to increase spatial ability. The authors suggest ways in which these hypotheses could be tested by presenting explicit predictions and suggesting suitable test species or conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aptitude / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Humans
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*