Human sex differences in solving a virtual navigation problem

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The current study examined sex differences in initial and subsequent strategies in solving a navigational problem within a virtual reality environment. We tested 163 undergraduates on a virtual T-maze task that included probe trials designed to assess whether participants were responding using either a place or response strategy. Participants were also tested on a mental rotation task and memory of the details of the virtual room. There were no differences between the sexes in copying or recalling a map of the room or on first trial performance of the T-maze. However, at trial two, males show a significant advantage in solving the task, and approximately 80% of the males adopt a place strategy to solve the T-maze whereas females at that point showed no strategy preference. Across all testing, both males and females preferentially used a place strategy. We discuss how factors such as spatial priming affect strategy preferences and how such factors may differentially affect males and females.

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