Sex differences in visuospatial and navigational working memory: the role of mood induced by background music

Massimiliano Palmiero, Raffaella Nori, Carmelo Rogolino, Simonetta D’amico, Laura Piccardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Sex differences in visuospatial abilities are long debated. Men generally outperform women, especially in wayfinding or learning a route or a sequence of places. These differences might depend on women’s disadvantage in underlying spatial competences, such as mental rotation, and on the strategies used, as well as on emotions and on self-belief about navigational skills, not related to actual skill-levels. In the present study, sex differences in visuospatial and navigational working memory in emotional contexts were investigated. Participants’ mood was manipulated by background music (positive, negative or neutral) while performing on the Corsi Block-tapping Task (CBT) and Walking Corsi (WalCT) test. In order to assess the effectiveness of mood manipulation, participants filled in the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule before and after carrying out the visuospatial tasks. Firstly, results showed that after mood induction, only the positive affect changed, whereas the negative affect remained unconfounded by mood and by sex. This finding is in line with the main effect of ‘group’ on all tests used: the positive music group scored significantly higher than other groups. Secondly, although men outperformed women in the CBT forward condition and in the WalCT forward and backward conditions, they scored higher than women only in the WalCT with the negative background music. This means that mood cannot fully explain sex differences in visuospatial and navigational working memory. Our results suggest that sex differences in the CBT and WalCT can be better explained by differences in spatial competences rather than by emotional contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 6 2016

Keywords

  • Arousal
  • Gender differences
  • Situated cognition
  • Spatial ability
  • Strategies
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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