There are consistent differences internationally. Halpern called for a biopsychosocial model to replace the nature/nurture dichotomy and for consideration of the larger academic and societal context.
DR. AGOGINO: Hi, I’m Alice Agogino from the University of California at Berkeley. I have a question about how authentic these assessments or these features are in terms of actual practice and success. Janet, you mentioned the Linn Peterson study, a meta-analysis on spatial reasoning and found the greatest differences were for three-dimensional rotation, as measured by the Shepherd Test. I worked with Marcia Linn when I taught a Mechanical Engineering freshman design class where spatial reasoning skills were important. We looked at expert spatial reasoners in industry and found that they did even worse on some of those tests than the students at the lowest end of the scale. The big difference was timing. If we added 30 seconds onto a test, we got rid of a lot of the differences. We did a two hour workshop and developed strategies that improved the performance of both men and women and got rid of all the gender differences in performance on these tests. My question is, before we start creating courses, do they really matter in terms of success, and their authenticity for success in practice?
DR. HALPERN: People often ask that question. Spatial reasoning is correlated with grades in engineering schools; it’s been used in dental schools as a grade predictor; and the ability to see things from multiple angles is used in imagining what a molecule will look like if you rotate it in space. In some of my own work recently we have found that males were imaging a lot of the material when they were reading it, and some of the females also. While we are teaching people how to read, we’re teaching people how to do math. Cognitively this is another one of those dimensions that we have just not paid attention to in the educational system.
DR. BICKLE: Janet Bickle, formerly of the Association of American Medical Colleges, and now a career development coach. I wonder if anyone else noticed this week, a very small article in the Post that was a study of monkeys, finding that male monkeys were more likely to play with cars, and the female monkeys were more likely to play with dolls, including looking at the dolls’ bottoms. And the males actually playing with the cars the way little boys do. I was wondering what sense the panelists could help us make of this type of finding.
DR. HYDE: I think partly because I’m a meta-analyst, I’m very keenly aware of how many behavioral studies in psychology don’t replicate. And so, I would really want to see that study replicated before I made any interpretations, because studies like that are so quickly picked up by the media. Everybody loves them. And then there are 10 failures to replicate, and they never get attention. I think we really have to ask for the standard of replicability in a lot of these phenomena.
DR. MCEWEN: I might add that while I have no comment about that particular study, it’s well established in animal behavior studies on both rodents and on