Quantitative and qualitative sex differences in spatial navigation

Authors


Martin Lövdén, Center for Lifespan Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzealleé 94, D-14195 Berlin, Germany. E-mail: loevden@mpib-berlin.mpg.de

Abstract

We examined sex differences in spatial navigation performance using an ecologically relevant experimental paradigm in which virtual maze-like museums are projected in front of a treadmill. Thirty-two 20–30-year-old adults (16 women/16 men) performed a way-finding task in city-block (straight corridors) or variable (irregular corridors) topographies while walking on the treadmill. Sex differences in spatial navigation performance were reduced in variable topographies, suggesting less reliance on spatial relational learning among women. Also, spatial geometric knowledge of the mazes continued to be higher in men after all participants had attained perfect place-finding performance. Results indicate that sex differences in spatial navigation performance are modulated by interactions between environmental demands and sex differences in spatial processing.

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