Gender differences in visuo-spatial processing: The importance of distinguishing between passive storage and active manipulation

Tomaso Vecchi, Luisa Girelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The study here reported investigates the hypothesis that gender differences in visuo-spatial abilities are mainly confined to active processing tasks. Male and female participants were required to perform passive tasks involving the recall of previously memorised positions within matrices of different sizes, as well as active tasks in which they had to mentally follow a pathway in the same matrices. The results confirmed that male superiority became evident as the active processing requirements increased while only marginal gender difference was reported in passive tasks. To strengthen the specific role of the active-passive distinction in identifying gender differences, confounding factors such as type of material and use of verbal strategies were ruled out. These findings, in line with a number of studies on individual differences, highlight the importance of addressing visuo-spatial ability as a multicomponential cognitive function which entails different type of visuo-spatial processing or mechanisms (i.e., active processing and passive storage of information) rather than as a unitary concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1998



  • Gender differences
  • Visuo-spatial processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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