An evaluation of visuospatial skills using hands-on tasks

Daniela E. Aguilar Ramirez, Jarrod Blinch, Claudia L.R. Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Several tests of mental rotation ability have been used to investigate its development and the origins of sex differences. One of the most used tests is the mental rotation test (MRT) by Vandenberg and Kuse. A limitation of the MRT is that it is a pen-and-paper test with 2D images of 3D objects. This is a challenge to the ecological validity of the MRT because mental rotation typically involves physical 3D objects that are also physically manipulated. The purpose of the present study was to compare mental rotation ability as evaluated by the MRT to three new tasks with physical objects (toy bricks) that were physically manipulated. The different tasks allowed us to vary the processing demands on mental rotation while standardizing other aspects of the tasks. Fifty-nine females and twenty-eight males completed the LMR and HMR conditions (low- and high-mental rotation demands, respectively) of the brick building task (BBT), a visual search task, and the MRT. As demands on mental rotation for the BBT increased, performance decreased and a sex difference, with males outperforming females, increased. There were correlations between all tasks, but they were larger between the versions of the BBT with the MRT. The results suggest that spatial skill is an assembly of interrelated subskills and that the sex difference is sensitive to the demands on mental rotation and dimensionality crossing. The benefits of the BBT are that it is ecologically valid, avoids dimensionality crossing, and the demands on mental rotation can be manipulated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2269-2277
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental brain research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Mental rotation ability
  • Sex difference
  • Spatial skills
  • Spatial tasks


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