Spatial anxiety and spatial ability: Mediators of gender differences in math anxiety
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Title: Spatial anxiety and spatial ability: Mediators of gender differences in math anxiety
Authors: Delage, V., Trudel, G., Retanal, F., & Maloney, E.A. (2021)
Journal and DOI: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000884
Girls tend to be more anxious about math than boys. Math anxiety has been linked to lower math performance and higher math avoidance. Boys tend to have a higher spatial ability than girls. That is, boys do better on tasks that require them to mentally visualize, rotate, and transform spatial and visual information. When trying to explain the gender differences in math anxiety, it is important to consider a person’s spatial ability and how anxious they feel about spatial tasks (which is known as spatial anxiety).
What did we ask?
Can we explain the gender differences in math anxiety through math ability and three types of spatial ability and anxiety (imagery, navigation, and manipulation)?
How did we do it?
Undergraduate students (125 male; 286 female) completed assessments of their levels of general anxiety, math anxiety, and various types of spatial anxieties. They also completed a series of tasks measuring their math and spatial skills and answered demographic questions.
What did we find?
Our results suggest that the gender differences in math anxiety can be explained, in part, by manipulation anxiety and ability, navigation anxiety, and math ability. Of all the factors we investigated, being anxious about mentally manipulating an object (known as manipulation anxiety) was the most important in explaining the gender differences in math anxiety.
Interventions aimed at improving spatial ability and reducing spatial anxiety may also help reduce the gender differences in math anxiety.