Size does matter: Women mentally rotate large objects faster than men


Bernt Ivar Olsen, Department of Computer Science, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway. Tel: +47 91 72 79 06; fax: +47 776 44580; e-mail:


Performance in a computerized “mental rotation” task was measured in groups of males and females while they rotated Shepard-Metzler-like cube assemblies on either a standard laptop screen (size = 36 cm) or on a large display wall (584 cm) where the stimuli appeared at considerably larger sizes and within a much wider field of view than that typically used in most spatial tasks. Males and females did not differ significantly in performance in the standard size condition with regards to response time but females performed faster than males in the large display condition. Males were also found to be significantly more accurate than females, regardless of display. We found no sign of trading accuracy for speed for either of the sexes or screen size conditions. We surmise that such an effect may be due to differences in task-solving strategies between the sexes, where a holistic strategy – which may be preferred by males is negatively affected by large object sizes, whereas a piecemeal approach, that may be preferred by females, is virtually unaffected by display size.