Gender Differences in Mental Rotation Experiment


Mental rotation involves mind when it tries to recognize objects in the surrounding and figuring out what the altered objects really are. The aim of this experiment was to determine reaction time of different angles of rotation and influence of gender differences. The task involved comparing three letters, some letters appeared the same and others were difficult to tell during rotation. I also noted that, the more an image is rotated from the point of origin, the longer it takes for an individual to realize if the letters are the same. Neither the position nor the axis on the object being rotated is the degree in which it is rotated and the speed of the rotation. Matching the letters required a lot of time as the speed of rotation increases. The experiment also showed that, females are faster than males.

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Keywords: Mental rotation, experiment, females, males, mind, gender, memory

Mental rotation


Mental rotation involves moving objects in the brain. These objects are stimulus (Cohen, 2012). As they rotate physically they also move mentally. The differences that may occur in different genders may be as a result of picture vividness. Images may appear very bright seeming like real life because it is clearly bright or detailed. In this study females got the higher score because they have habits in thinking and their way of thinking is quite different from men. This experiment was aimed at determining the length of time that could be taken to determine whether the letters were the same or quite different. For each pair, I tried to redo it by closing one eye and tried it again when all eyes are open to identify any difference.

According to the theory of Paivio and Harshman (1987) females always tend to remember first because they use more imagery, colorful images which they have developed a habit in. As compared to males, reported use of images is a way of solving problem and gives them the ability to visualize objects. For instance, females do well in images that view regularly provided that they are colorful hence drawing their attention, whereas males might do well in manipulation of images. Males perform well on arts like drawing; while female perform well on some tasks requiring visual memory. Female have the tendency of reporting events and use of imagery. These images are stimulated by the verbal accounts of events. According to Paivio and Harshman (1987), this theory indicates that female tend to have more pictorial imagery as compare to males.

By applying commonsense, people may differ in image viewing and image control. Some individuals may be having eye complications (Johnson, 1990). This has a very big difference on individuals. It all depends on how the images are perceived. The finding of this experiment therefore indicates that, individual differences in imagery are multidimensional and image ability might be multidimensional.

In conclusion, mental rotation is depends on the mental rotation speed of different people. There is need for research in future to focus on the effects of the various socio-cultural and biological factors, as well as competent mental effects that influence individuals’ mental rotation and the strategies to acquire competent mental rotation. It is also hypnotized that, gender also determines on the ability of mental rotation.



Participants were 10 competent students. This group consisted of 6 females and 4 males with age range from 20-45. Participation was open and voluntary to anyone. There were more females than males.


There were 10 trials of different lettered objects to the participants before being rotated. This was to determine if the objects were similar both on the left and right view. Participants were given different letters on computer screen for 10 trials. The objects were being shown randomly and the participants were to make a comparison by clicking on the mouse to accept by pressing a button of true or false. The mean time was measured in seconds. Participants were also asked to give more information on gender and age and their effects on the rotation. It came to my realization that young people tend to have a sharp memory than the old people hence they are more skilled in mental rotation.


For each trial, the entire 10 participant were shown two different presentations of the objects. The object on the left was the standard version and the shape on the right was a reflected version of the shape on the left. The object on the left was shown in the upright way appearance while the object on the right was rotated in each trial; participants were to rotate the right object mentally then draw a conclusion if the objects were similar. That is, if the right objects were identical to the left objects.

Participants were also asked if the left object was identical to the right one or otherwise. The task of participants was to complete the 10 trials, and to mentally see if they could recognize objects in their upright position after being rotated.


The results showed that, the bigger the rotation of the angle, the longer it takes for the participants to make decisions on whether the two objects have any similarities. As the object on the right was reflected, the vision of the object on the left participants first rotated the shape mentally to the right position. Individuals with inability were faster and more accurate in identifying the images. After mentally rotating the imagery they responded whether or not the shape was identical to the first shape. The results from the table also showed that if a shape has been rotated to instance 240 degrees, physically it will take longer for an individual to compare a shape which has been rotated 60 degrees.

From the group, females were the most of the participants and they were showing a higher reaction and quicker response than males. This clearly showed what sex difference influence mental rotation.


As already mentioned that mental images are analogue representations of physical objects, this finding supports the result of Harshman and Paivio and (1987) on reaction time. The results provide supports for the hypothesis that as angle of rotation goes, the reaction time of participant increases. This information supports the hypothesis which has been supported in this study. As the angle of rotation becomes bigger, it takes the participant longer time to make a decision. According to the findings, participants mentally rotate the second objects to its upright position first then compared with the standard version of the object. After mentally rotating the imagery, they respond whether or not the shape is identical to the first shape.

The results show that females have higher reaction time than males. The results showed that, it took females longer to decide “males are more proficient on paper and pencil tests requiring mental rotation or transformation” (Harris, 1978; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974) now that there was an equal number of a female participant to that of the male participants. The limitation of having a bigger number of female participants was eliminated by balancing the number. The results supported the hypothesis that gender differences influences the way an image is perceived. As predicted, the females scored higher than males on the mental imagery test because female perceive objects differently. This findings supported by earlier studies in which female needed more time to rotate the shape mentally than males. I also found out that, the ability to rotate objects mentally might relate to individual differences in specific kinds of imagery abilities. Also from the research mental rotation is activated by different coloured shapes. The coloured objects tend to take a shorter time than the dull objects.

The setting for this experiment was at school. This enabled us get different results from the previous ones. The environment where the task completed made this study a success because there were very few distractions. All the concentration of all participants was sufficient in conducting this research. The environment was conducive and it enhanced the findings about mental rotation.

Additional advantage of this study was the limited range of age group, which enabled us to establish the differences and how different people with different ages perceive objects in their brains. Differences in age may influence how long it might take a participant to make the decision that the object is real or similar to another.

The overall result of this study is that, as the angle of rotation goes upwards the reaction time of the participants increase. This is because the image must first rotate mentally then decides the shape is mirror or not.

In conclusion male participants are not a good simple of representations. Aged people are also not good in mental rotation.


Cohen, M. 2012. “Changes in Cortical Activities During Mental Rotation: A mapping study using functional magnetic resonance imaging” Retrieved on May 29, 2014 from,

Harshman R.A. & Paivio, A. (1987). “Paradoxical” sex differences in self-reported imagery. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 41, 287-302

Johnson A.M. (1990). Speed of mental rotation as a function of problem solving strategies.

Paivio, A., &Harshman, R. A. (1983). Factor analysis of a questionnaire on imagery and verbal habits and skills. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 37, 46l-483

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