THE INFLUENCE OF EMOTIONAL CUES ON MENTAL ROTATION ABILITY
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Men compared to women perform significantly better on mental rotation tasks for argued biological and environmental reasons. Threat has been previously found to influence the magnitude and direction of sex differences in cognitive abilities. This study examined the influence of threat on spatial ability and evaluated the gender difference of this influence through a facial stimulus and performance on a mental rotation task. Participants included 30 women and 30 men randomly assigned to a neutral or threat condition. All participants completed a WASI IQ test for a standard measure of general intelligence and a mental rotation task that was presented on a computer monitor. For participants in the neutral condition, a neutral male face preceded each test question. For the threat condition, an angry male face preceded each item. We hypothesized that women in the threat condition would score lower than women in the neutral condition. In contrast, we hypothesized that threat would have no negative effects on men?s performance. The results were consistent with previous findings of a robust sex difference in MRT with men outperforming women in both conditions. There were two statistically significant results: Women fixated more often in the eyes look zone and men who fixated more often in the friendly condition performed better. The results can be explained by biological and social theories. One biological explanation is that from previous studies it has been found that women are far better than men at recognizing non-verbal cues from a very early point in life, which can be a response to sex-linked hormonal surges. Another explanation is the social constructivist theory that argues the behavior is a result of imitating adults. The finding that men who fixated more in the friendly condition performed better can be explained by the friendly stimulus offering encouragement and boosting confidence.
Amlani, Farah 1989- (2012). THE INFLUENCE OF EMOTIONAL CUES ON MENTAL ROTATION ABILITY. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from