Stimulus features and sex differences in mental rotation test performance

Menucha Birenbaum, Anthony E. Kelly*, Michal Levi-Keren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This study examined sex differences in spatial abilities using a standard two-dimensional paper-and-pencil test of mental rotation administered to 410 subjects. A personality questionnaire and six other ability tests related to mental rotation were also administered: numerical ability, verbal ability, inductive reasoning, associative memory, perceptual speed and accuracy, and speed of closure. Structural and superficial features of the tasks were specified, and sex differences in accuracy and speed were examined. Certain features of the mental rotation test stimuli (e.g., long trajectories, multilined or multispotted) proved difficult for both males and females, but more difficult for females. These findings were interpreted in the light of Just and Carpenter's (1985) model. Males also completed more items than females. In this regard, personality factors related to cautiousness yielded significant negative correlations with speed. On the related ability tests, males outperformed females on a numerical skills test, and females outperformed males on an associative memory test. No significant sex differences emerged on the other four ability tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-64
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994


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