Males, Females, and Maps: Evaluating Spatial Encoding Strategies

Elisabeth S. Nelson

http://dx.doi.org/10.14714/CP25.734

Abstract


Cognitive research suggests that there is a difference in the spatial  abilities of males and females. Results of studies that examine wayfinding skills indicate that the differences found may be linked to a variation in the types of strategies used in completing spatial tasks. The purpose of this study was to assess the influence of gender on different strategies for encoding spatial information in a map context. An experiment was conducted in which subjects studied a map presented to them using one of three encoding strategies: (1) a control strategy in which they viewed the map as a static representation, (2) a landmark-based strategy in which they viewed a dynamic sequencing of the map that began with landmark locations and built over time to include all map components, and (3) a path-based strategy in which they viewed a dynamic sequencing of the map that began with path locations and built over time to include all map components. Following this study phase, subjects completed a series of map recognition tasks where they indicated whether a presented map was the same as or different from the map they had originally studied. Test maps that differed from the memorized map were modified by either replacing, displacing, or reversing the perspective of a map object. Results indicated that while encoding strategy played a significant role in determining how accurately subjects could perform the recognition task, gender did not significantly influence how well any particular strategy worked for encoding map-based spatial information.

Keywords


gender; cognition; spatial ability

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