Mental rotation in female fraternal twins: Evidence for intra-uterine hormone transfer?

Biol Psychol. 2011 Jan;86(1):90-3. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.11.002. Epub 2010 Nov 19.


Men outperform women in mental rotation by about one standard deviation. Prenatal exposure to testosterone has been suggested as one cause. In animals it has been shown that a female fetus located between two male ones is exposed to higher levels of testosterone. It is still unclear whether intra-uterine hormone transfer exists in humans. Therefore, the influence of an intra-uterine presence of a male co twin was studied in female fraternal twins (N=200). Women with a male co-twin outperformed women with a female co-twin by about a third standard deviation. In a no-twin control group (N=200), performance of women with a slightly older sibling did not depend upon the sibling's sex. These findings provide preliminary support for the theory of an influence of prenatal testosterone on mental rotation performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Testosterone / adverse effects*
  • Transfer, Psychology*
  • Twins, Dizygotic*
  • Twins, Monozygotic
  • Young Adult


  • Testosterone