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Br J Psychol. 2008 Aug;99(Pt 3):427-40. doi: 10.1348/000712608X282806. Epub 2008 Feb 6.

Spatial ability in secondary school students: intra-sex differences based on self-selection for physical education.

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School of Psychology, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia.


Past research has demonstrated consistent sex differences with men typically outperforming women on tests of spatial ability. However, less is known about intra-sex effects. In the present study, two groups of female students (physical education and non-physical education secondary students) and two corresponding groups of male students explored a large-scale virtual shopping centre. In a battery of tasks, spatial knowledge of the shopping centre as well as mental rotation ability were tested. Additional variables considered were circulating testosterone levels, the ratio of 2D:4D digit length, and computer experience. The results revealed both sex and intra-sex differences in spatial ability. Variables related to virtual navigation and computer ability and experience were found to be the most powerful predictors of group membership. Our results suggest that in female and male secondary students, participation in physical education and spatial skill are related.

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