Early sex differences in weighting geometric cues

Dev Sci. 2011 Nov;14(6):1365-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01086.x. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


When geometric and non-geometric information are both available for specifying location, men have been shown to rely more heavily on geometry compared to women. To shed insight on the nature and developmental origins of this sex difference, we examined how 18- to 24-month-olds represented the geometry of a surrounding (rectangular) space when direct non-geometric information (i.e. a beacon) was also available for localizing a hidden object. Children were tested on a disorientation task with multiple phases. Across experiments, boys relied more heavily than girls on geometry to guide localization, as indicated by their errors during the initial phase of the task, and by their search choices following transformations that left only geometry available, or that, under limited conditions, created a conflict between beacon and geometry. Analyses of search times suggested that girls, like boys, had encoded geometry, and testing in a square space ruled out explanations concerned with motivational and methodological variables. Taken together, the findings provide evidence for an early sex difference in the weighting of geometry. This sex difference, we suggest, reflects subtle variation in how boys and girls approach the problem of combining multiple sources of location information.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Space Perception / physiology*