According to a new review published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles, there may be a strong association between masculine or androgynous gender-identification and performing better on mental rotation tasks. The authors of this study, David Reilly and David Neumann from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, think that individuals who have strong masculine traits and behaviors are more likely to cultivate mathematical and scientific skills. On the flip side, they propose that those with strong feminine traits and behaviors are more likely to be good at abilities related to speaking and language. According to the researchers, gender-roles are not always mutually exclusive. Some individuals tend to develop an integration of both traditional male and female roles. What may prove to be most intriguing about this research is that the development of spatial ability is often fine-tuned through play and recreational activities.
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For instance, kids who engage in more traditionally masculine activities may experience better development of spatial ability. The authors suggest that if girls, who tend to study math and science less than their male peers, get involved in boy-minded play and games, they may experience improvement in their spatial ability. Of course, this all boils down to being able to define “traditional” boy play vs. girl play. Considering boys can be great caretakers of dolls and enjoy dress-up and girls can be great puzzle solvers and Lego builders, it could be hard to say which masculine activities will improve spatial ability.