Twin Res Hum Genet 2010 Oct;13(5):437-41
Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.
Probably the most robust sex difference in cognitive abilities is that on average males outperform females in tests of mental rotation. Using twin data we tested whether there are sex differences in the magnitude of genetic and environmental effects on mental rotation test performance and whether the same or different genetic effects operate in females and males. The present study replicated the well-known male advantage in mental rotation ability. The relative proportion of variance explained by genetic effects did not differ between females and males, but interestingly, absolute additive genetic and unique environmental variances were greater in males reflecting significantly greater phenotypic variance in mental rotation test performance in males. Over half of the variance in mental rotation test performance was explained by genetic effects, which suggest that mental rotation ability is a good phenotype for studies finding genes underlying spatial abilities. Results indicate that females and males could be combined for such genetic studies, because the same genetic effects affected mental rotation test performance in females and males.