Magnitude of sex differences in spatial abilities: a meta-analysis and consideration of critical variables

Psychol Bull. 1995 Mar;117(2):250-70. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.2.250.


In recent years, the magnitude, consistency, and stability across time of cognitive sex differences have been questioned. The present study examined these issues in the context of spatial abilities. A meta-analysis of 286 effect sizes from a variety of spatial ability measures was conducted. Effect sizes were partitioned by the specific test used and by a number of variables related to the experimental procedure in order to achieve homogeneity. Results showed that sex differences are significant in several tests but that some intertest differences exist. Partial support was found for the notion that the magnitude of sex differences has decreased in recent years. Finally, it was found that the age of emergence of sex differences depends on the test used. Results are discussed with regard to their implications for the study of sex differences in spatial abilities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aptitude*
  • Bias
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Psychometrics
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Space Perception*