Sex differences in mental rotation and line angle judgments are positively associated with gender equality and economic development across 53 nations

Arch Sex Behav. 2010 Aug;39(4):990-7. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9460-8. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Mental rotation and line angle judgment performance were assessed in more than 90,000 women and 111,000 men from 53 nations. In all nations, men's mean performance exceeded women's on these two visuospatial tasks. Gender equality (as assessed by United Nations indices) and economic development (as assessed by per capita income and life expectancy) were significantly associated, across nations, with larger sex differences, contrary to the predictions of social role theory. For both men and women, across nations, gender equality and economic development were significantly associated with better performance on the two visuospatial tasks. However, these associations were stronger for the mental rotation task than for the line angle judgment task, and they were stronger for men than for women. Results were discussed in terms of evolutionary, social role, and stereotype threat theories of sex differences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Developed Countries*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Rotation
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Social Values
  • Space Perception*
  • Visual Perception*
  • Young Adult