In studies in which Piagetian water-level (horizontality) and plumb-line (verticality) tasks are administered to young adults, females are typically less successful than males. Women may, however, have the underlying spatial competence to use horizontal and vertical axes, but may be less likely to activate this competence because they lack adequate knowledge of the relevant physical phenomena. To evaluate this possibility, 80 male and 80 female college students were given horizontality and verticality tasks in which knowledge of the physical phenomena was, or was not, relevant. Sex differences were evident only when knowledge of the physical phenomena was needed. These data support a performance rather than a competence interpretation of adult women's difficulties in the standard Piagetian tasks. Developmental and educational implications are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies