Human spatial abilities: Psychometric studies and environmental, genetic, hormonal, and neurological influences

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Reviews the spatial abilities literature. Psychometric consideration encompasses (a) factor analytic studies that conclusively demonstrate the existence of at least 2 spatial factors--Visualization and Orientation, and (b) predictive validity studies that argue for the social relevance of these factors. Sex differences in various aspects of perceptual-cognitive functioning (e.g., mathematics, field independence) are interpreted as a secondary consequence of differences with respect to spatial visualization and spatial orientation abilities. Sources of variation in performance on spatial tests including environmental, genetic, hormonal, and neurological are considered, with special emphasis on age and sex differences. Evidence that variation in spatial test scores is to some degree heritable remains positive; however, the X-linked recessive gene hypothesis that has served as a tentative explanation for sex differences in spatial abilities and for the mode of genetic transmission is not supported strongly in recent studies. Neurological studies showing variations in the lateral organization of the human brain provide experimental evidence for a structural source of the variation in spatial abilities, and this evidence is reviewed as it relates to human handedness and cerebral bilateralization for spatial and linguistic functions. (9 p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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