In this study we examine how native language, sex, and college major interact to influence accuracy and preferred strategy when performing mental rotation (MR). Native monolingual Chinese and English speakers rotated 3-D shapes while maintaining a concurrent verbal or spatial memory load. For English speakers, male physical science majors were more accurate than social science majors and employed a spatial/holistic strategy; male social science majors used a verbal/analytic strategy. Regardless of college major, English-speaking females were not consistent in MR strategy. A small overall advantage in accuracy was found for Chinese speakers, and both male and female Chinesespeaking physical science majors relied on a combined spatial/holistic and verbal/analytic strategy; Chinese-speaking social science majors did not show a strategy preference. Our results suggest that acquiring a logographic language like Chinese may heighten spatial ability and bias one toward a spatial/holistic MR strategy.
- College major
- Mental rotation