Differences in mental rotation strategies for native speakers of chinese and english and how they vary as a function of sex and college major

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Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-20
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Record
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

Keywords

  • Chinese
  • College major
  • Mental rotation
  • Sex

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