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Document Type

Article

Abstract

In this study we examine how native language, sex, and college major interact to influence accuracy and preferred strategy when performing mental rotation (MR). Native monolingual Chinese and English speakers rotated 3-D shapes while maintaining a concurrent verbal or spatial memory load. For English speakers, male physical science majors were more accurate than social science majors and employed a spatial/ holistic strategy; male social science majors used a verbal/analytic strategy. Regardless of college major, English-speaking females were not consistent in MR strategy. A small overall advantage in accuracy was found for Chinese speakers, and both male and female Chinese-speaking physical science majors relied on a combined spatial/holistic and verbal/analytic strategy; Chinese-speaking social science majors did not show a strategy preference. Our results suggest that acquiring a logographic language like Chinese may heighten spatial ability and bias one toward a spatial/holistic MR strategy.

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