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BEYOND SEX DIFFERENCES IN VISUO-SPATIAL PROCESSING THE IMPACT OF GENDER TRAIT POSSESSION Much research has emphasized the presence of sex differences in visuo-spatial processes while neglecting individual differences in performance within the two sexes Archer 1987 The present study looks beyond sex differences and considers the association of self-perceived gender trait possession with performance in two visuo-spatial tasks The findings indicate that in a 3-D mental rotation task where a substantial sex difference occurred gender trait possession adds significantly to the overall explanation of performance the important gender trait variable being a measure of androgyny With the Group Embedded Figures Task gender trait measures were the only significant variables in differentiating performance in this case masculinity was the important gender trait variable The implication of such results for conventional explanations of individual differences in visuo-spatial processing is discussed Research into the existence of sex differences in visual cognition and related areas has been extensively reviewed in the past 20 years Archer Lloyd 1985 Fausto-Sterling 1992 Halpern 1992 Hyde Fennema Ryan 1990 Linn Petersen 1985 Maccoby Jacklin 1974 McGee 1979 Newcombe 1982 Tracy 1987 The general conclusion of such reviews suggests that visuo-spatial performance appears to differ significantly between the sexes though see Fausto-Sterling 1992 for an alternative interpretation Figure 1 indicates the typical pattern of results in mental rotation task performance for females and males males typically achieving significantly higher scores While the conventional emphasis has been made on a comparison of the two sample means female vs male it is apparent from the figure that there is considerable variation in performance within the sexes and extensive overlap between the two distributions Archer 1987 and Halpern 1992 have argued for the use of effect size in the discussion of results in order to complement significance levels and gain some indication of the extent of variance in the data which can be explained by the variable of interest In Fig
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