Spatial Relationships

SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS….Men are better than women at visuospatial skills. The ev psych crowd explains this with a story about men hunting wooly mammoths during the Pleistocene and therefore evolving brain structures that are highly attuned to spatial relationships. Maybe so.

Then again, maybe not. Dave Munger reports that a research team led by Jing Feng was surprisingly successful at closing the visuospatial gender gap with just a few hours of training:

Feng’s team recruited 20 new students with no gaming experience. All the students were tested with the same task and a mental rotation task, and placed in pairs scoring similarly. One member of each pair was trained in a violent action game — Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, while the other member was trained with Ballance, a 3-D puzzle game. They played their respective games for ten hours over a four-week period, then tested again.

….While men scored better than women before training, after playing Medal of Honor both women and men improved significantly. The difference between males and females after the training was not significant — the gap between women and men was almost completely erased. Even more impressively, the researchers retested both groups five months later and found that both groups were still performing as well as they had right after training. The group playing Ballance showed no significant gains.

Now, the sample size here is pretty minuscule: five pairs of men and five pairs of women. So it’s best not to get too excited by this. Still, as a male with sucky visuospatial skills I find this encouraging. If I buy a PlayStation and use it for an hour a day, will I stop getting lost whenever I’m more than five miles from home?

Via Andrew Sullivan.