Confidence boosts women’s spatial skills

WARWICK (UK) — Confidence levels play a key role in women’s ability to perform spatial tasks, such as parking a car and reading a map, a new study shows.

Previous studies have established that women are slower and less accurate than men on a range of spatial tasks.

University of Warwick researcher Zachary Estes, working with Sydney Felker from the University of Georgia, looked at women’s ability to perform a standard 3D mental rotation task, while at the same time manipulating their confidence levels.


The study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, finds that when women feel more confident about themselves, their ability to perform spatial tasks improves.

“Prior research shows that women tend to do poorly on tasks that require spatial awareness,” Estes says. “That’s borne out in the common jokes we always hear about men being better at parking and map-reading than women.

“But we wanted to see why that was, so we manipulated people’s confidence in our experiments with spatial tasks, and it does seem that confidence is a key factor in how well women perform at this kind of task.

“Our research suggests that by making a woman feel better about herself, she’ll become better at spatial tasks—which in the real world means tasks such as parking the car or reading a map.

“So a little bit of confidence-boosting may go a long way when it comes to reversing the car into a tight parking spot.”

The researchers tested spatial ability through a series of four computer-based experiments on a total of 545 students at a university in the US.

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