|MadSci Network: Other|
I am assuming that you are referring to estimating physical size and volume which is a visuospatial ability. Male-female differences in tasks involving spatial processing have been attributed to gender-specific specialization of the two hemispheres of the brain [Rasmjou, Hausmann and Güntürkün 1999]. Men have been called ‘right-brained’ as the right hemisphere is the one that usually deals with visuo-spatial tasks. Women who tend to be quicker at tasks involving language processing have been called ‘left-brained’. It has not been established as to whether this specialization of the two hemispheres occurs as a result of genetic factors, sex hormones or environmental and cultural mechanisms. One theory that explains the gender differences in spatial abilities is Silverman and Eals’  hunter-gatherer theory of the origin of sex- specific spatial attributes. This view holds that men and women have different cognitive abilities appropriate to their sex roles in their prehistoric lifestyles. Prehistoric females (i.e. gatherers) who had to forage for food and keep track of objects, locations and landmarks near their homes were more successful at acquiring resources for bearing and raising offspring. Males (i.e. hunters) who were better able to travel in unfamiliar territory, estimate distance, and navigate with a ‘bird’s eye view’ orientation were more successful at hunting, competing with other males, finding mates, and having children. Thus these male-female cognitive differences arose through the process of evolutionary selection. In support of this theory, Dabbs et al  demonstrated that females outperform men on spatial tasks such as remembering the location of objects in the environment and men have better ‘mental rotation’ spatial abilities than women. Additionally researchers since the 1970s have found that men typically outperform women at spatial tasks that involve manipulating objects in space [Maccoby and Jacklin 1974]. References: DABBS, J.M., CHANG, E.-L., STRONG, R.A. AND MILUN, R. 1998. Spatial ability, navigation strategy, and geographic knowledge among men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior 19, 89-98. MACCOBY, E.E. AND JACKLIN, C.N. 1974. The Psychology of Sex Differences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. RASMJOU, S., HAUSMANN, M. AND GÜNTÜRKÜN, O. 1999. Hemispheric dominance and gender in the perception of an illusion. Neuropsychologia 37, 1041- 1047. SILVERMAN, I. AND EALS, M. 1992. Sex differences in spatial abilities: Evolutionary theory and data. In The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, J.H. BARKOW, L. COSMIDES and J.TOOBY, Eds. New York: Oxford Press, 531-549. Please note I have taken this information from a paper by Geoffrey Hubona which can be found at http://www.cis.gsu.edu/~ghubona/gender/hubona.pdf
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