In a range of species, sex differences in spatial memory performance have been explained in terms of males and females evolving different abilities to deal with different spatial ecologies, most frequently as a consequence of differences in home range size. Human sex differences in spatial cognition have been explained in a similar way, by proposing that males tend to perform better on tasks that tap spatial abilities required for hunting (ancestrally a predominantly male activity), while females perform better on tasks that tap spatial abilities important for gathering (a predominantly female activity in hunter-gatherer groups). The current study examined this hypothesis by correlating performance on tests of spatial cognition that have previously shown reliable sex differences (mental rotation, and tasks depending on object location memory) with navigation performance in a virtual maze. All subjects learnt the maze in the presence of both proximal and distal landmarks, and were tested in versions of the maze in which either distal or proximal landmarks were removed. As predicted from the hunter-gatherer hypothesis, males were more affected by the removal of distal landmarks and females were more affected by the removal of proximal landmarks, and as previously found, males outperformed females on the mental rotation task and females outperformed males on the object location memory tasks. However, the correlations between performance on the navigation task and the other tasks were not as predicted from the hunter-gatherer hypothesis, suggesting that the hypothesis is in need of revision.
|Number of pages||1|
|Publication status||Published - 2007|
|Event||ASSAB 2007 - Canberra|
Duration: 12 Apr 2007 → 15 Apr 2007
|Period||12/04/07 → 15/04/07|