Girls in detail, boys in shape: Gender differences when drawing cubes in depth


Correspondence should be addressed to Christiane Lange-Küttner, London Metropolitan University, School of Psychology, Faculty of Life Sciences and Computing, United Kingdom (e-mail: or Mirjam Ebersbach, University of Kassel, Faculty of Human Sciences, Institute of Psychology, Germany (e-mail:


The current study tested gender differences in the developmental transition from drawing cubes in two- versus three dimensions (3D), and investigated the underlying spatial abilities. Six- to nine-year-old children (= 97) drew two occluding model cubes and solved several other spatial tasks. Girls more often unfolded the various sides of the cubes into a layout, also called diagrammatic cube drawing (object design detail). In girls, the best predictor for drawing the cubes was Mental Rotation Test (MRT) accuracy. In contrast, boys were more likely to preserve the optical appearance of the cube array. Their drawing in 3D was best predicted by MRT reaction time and the Embedded Figures Test (EFT). This confirmed boys' stronger focus on the contours of an object silhouette (object shape). It is discussed whether the two gender-specific approaches to drawing in three dimensions reflect two sides of the appearance–reality distinction in drawing, that is graphic syntax of object design features versus visual perception of projective space.