Sexual orientation and spatial ability in men and women

Research paper by Brian A. Gladue, William W. Beatty, Jan Larson, R. Dennis Staton

Indexed on: 07 Oct '13Published on: 07 Oct '13Published in: Psychobiology (Austin, Tex.)


The performance by groups of male and female homosexuals and heterosexuals on three tests of spatial ability was studied. The groups were closely matched in terms of age, education, and vocational interests. Male homosexuals performed more poorly than male heterosexuals on a version of the water jar test and on the Mental Rotation Test, but the groups did not differ on measures of geographical knowledge or verbal ability. Female homosexuals and heterosexuals attained similar scores on all cognitive variables except the water jar test; on this task, the homosexual females performed more poorly than the heterosexual females. The influence of sexual orientation on visuospatial tasks could not be explained on the basis of self-reports of masculinity and femininity, or on the basis of experience with activities thought to foster the development of spatial skills. Such factors, however, acting in concert with biological influences that are not yet known, may have parallel effects on the development of sexual orientation and visuospatial ability.