Sex Differences in Gray Matter Volume of the Right Anterior Hippocampus Explain Sex Differences in Three-Dimensional Mental Rotation
Previous studies have reported sex differences in wayfinding performance among adults. Men are typically better at using Euclidean information and survey strategies while women are better at using landmark information and route strategies. However, relatively few studies have examined sex differences in wayfinding in children. This research investigated relationships between route learning performance and two general abilities: spatial ability and verbal memory in 153 boys and girls between 6- to 12-years-old. Children completed a battery of spatial ability tasks (a two-dimension mental rotation task, a paper folding task, a visuo-spatial working memory task, and a Piagetian water level task) and a verbal memory task. In the route learning task, they had to learn a route through a series of hallways presented via computer. Boys had better overall route learning performance than did girls. In fact, the difference between boys and girls was constant across the age range tested. Structural equation modeling of the children's performance revealed that spatial abilities and verbal memory were significant contributors to route learning performance. However, there were different patterns of correlates for boys and girls. For boys, spatial abilities contributed to route learning while verbal memory did not. In contrast, for girls both spatial abilities and verbal memory contributed to their route learning performance. This difference may reflect the precursor of a strategic difference between boys and girls in wayfinding that is commonly observed in adults.