The implications for academic attainment of perceived gender-appropriateness upon spatial task performance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background. Male superiority in spatial ability has traditionally been used as an explanation for the male domination of ‘spatial’ disciplines such as mathematics, science and computing. Data are presented which show the degree of male domination of these disciplines at a range of academic levels.

Aims. To evaluate the effect of describing a spatial ability test either as a measure of spatial ability (traditional format) or as a measure of empathy, upon male and female performance. Psychological gender is also assessed to evaluate the role of masculinity and femininity upon performance.

Method. Eighty-four sixth form students were presented with the Group Embedded Figures Test in the assessment's traditional format and as a measure of ‘empathy’. Levels of masculinity and femininity were also assessed using the Bern Sex Role Inventory.

Results. Whilst the description of the nature of the assessment did not affect male performance, female performance varied significantly as a function of test description. Females only underperformed when the test was described as a measure of spatial ability. Additionally, those high in masculinity were found to outperform those high in femininity.

Conclusions. The results suggest that ‘apparent’ sex differences in spatial ability are more accurately described as psychological gender differences which determine the motivation to attempt the assessments.

Comment. The implications for genderised activities (such as computing) within education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1998

Fingerprint

Task Performance and Analysis
Femininity
Masculinity
femininity
gender
masculinity
ability
performance
empathy
domination
Mathematical Computing
Psychology
Sex Characteristics
Motivation
gender-specific factors
Spatial Navigation
mathematics
Students
Education
Equipment and Supplies

Cite this

@article{8163aada10504118a253d5912b71e68c,
title = "The implications for academic attainment of perceived gender-appropriateness upon spatial task performance",
abstract = "Background. Male superiority in spatial ability has traditionally been used as an explanation for the male domination of ‘spatial’ disciplines such as mathematics, science and computing. Data are presented which show the degree of male domination of these disciplines at a range of academic levels. Aims. To evaluate the effect of describing a spatial ability test either as a measure of spatial ability (traditional format) or as a measure of empathy, upon male and female performance. Psychological gender is also assessed to evaluate the role of masculinity and femininity upon performance. Method. Eighty-four sixth form students were presented with the Group Embedded Figures Test in the assessment's traditional format and as a measure of ‘empathy’. Levels of masculinity and femininity were also assessed using the Bern Sex Role Inventory. Results. Whilst the description of the nature of the assessment did not affect male performance, female performance varied significantly as a function of test description. Females only underperformed when the test was described as a measure of spatial ability. Additionally, those high in masculinity were found to outperform those high in femininity. Conclusions. The results suggest that ‘apparent’ sex differences in spatial ability are more accurately described as psychological gender differences which determine the motivation to attempt the assessments. Comment. The implications for genderised activities (such as computing) within education are discussed.",
author = "Mark Brosnan",
year = "1998",
doi = "10.1111/j.2044-8279.1998.tb01284.x",
language = "English",
volume = "68",
pages = "203--215",
journal = "British Journal of Educational Psychology",
issn = "0007-0998",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The implications for academic attainment of perceived gender-appropriateness upon spatial task performance

AU - Brosnan, Mark

PY - 1998

Y1 - 1998

N2 - Background. Male superiority in spatial ability has traditionally been used as an explanation for the male domination of ‘spatial’ disciplines such as mathematics, science and computing. Data are presented which show the degree of male domination of these disciplines at a range of academic levels. Aims. To evaluate the effect of describing a spatial ability test either as a measure of spatial ability (traditional format) or as a measure of empathy, upon male and female performance. Psychological gender is also assessed to evaluate the role of masculinity and femininity upon performance. Method. Eighty-four sixth form students were presented with the Group Embedded Figures Test in the assessment's traditional format and as a measure of ‘empathy’. Levels of masculinity and femininity were also assessed using the Bern Sex Role Inventory. Results. Whilst the description of the nature of the assessment did not affect male performance, female performance varied significantly as a function of test description. Females only underperformed when the test was described as a measure of spatial ability. Additionally, those high in masculinity were found to outperform those high in femininity. Conclusions. The results suggest that ‘apparent’ sex differences in spatial ability are more accurately described as psychological gender differences which determine the motivation to attempt the assessments. Comment. The implications for genderised activities (such as computing) within education are discussed.

AB - Background. Male superiority in spatial ability has traditionally been used as an explanation for the male domination of ‘spatial’ disciplines such as mathematics, science and computing. Data are presented which show the degree of male domination of these disciplines at a range of academic levels. Aims. To evaluate the effect of describing a spatial ability test either as a measure of spatial ability (traditional format) or as a measure of empathy, upon male and female performance. Psychological gender is also assessed to evaluate the role of masculinity and femininity upon performance. Method. Eighty-four sixth form students were presented with the Group Embedded Figures Test in the assessment's traditional format and as a measure of ‘empathy’. Levels of masculinity and femininity were also assessed using the Bern Sex Role Inventory. Results. Whilst the description of the nature of the assessment did not affect male performance, female performance varied significantly as a function of test description. Females only underperformed when the test was described as a measure of spatial ability. Additionally, those high in masculinity were found to outperform those high in femininity. Conclusions. The results suggest that ‘apparent’ sex differences in spatial ability are more accurately described as psychological gender differences which determine the motivation to attempt the assessments. Comment. The implications for genderised activities (such as computing) within education are discussed.

UR - http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8279.1998.tb01284.x

U2 - 10.1111/j.2044-8279.1998.tb01284.x

DO - 10.1111/j.2044-8279.1998.tb01284.x

M3 - Article

VL - 68

SP - 203

EP - 215

JO - British Journal of Educational Psychology

JF - British Journal of Educational Psychology

SN - 0007-0998

IS - 2

ER -