Sex Differences and the Role of Gaming Experience in Spatial Cognition Performance in Primary School Children: An Exploratory Study

Brain Sci. 2021 Jul 1;11(7):886. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11070886.


Sex differences are repeatedly observed in spatial cognition tasks. However, the role of environmental factors such as gaming experience remains unclear. In this exploratory study, navigation and object-relocation were combined in a naturalistic virtual reality-based spatial task. The sample consisted of n = 53 Dutch children aged 9-11 years. Overall, girls (n = 24) and boys (n = 29) performed equally accurately, although there was an increase in accuracy with age for boys (ηp2 = 0.09). Boys navigated faster than girls (ηp2 = 0.29), and this difference increased with age (ηp2 = 0.07). More gaming experience in boys versus girls (Cohen's d = 0.88) did not explain any result observed. We encourage future confirmatory studies to use the paradigm presented here to investigate the current results in a larger sample. These findings could be beneficial for optimizing spatial cognition training interventions.

Keywords: gaming experience; navigation; object location memory; sex differences; spatial cognitive development; virtual reality.