Note:  Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Claudia Quaiser-Pohl, University of Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Institute of Psychology, Universitätsstr. 1, 56070 Koblenz, Germany; Email: [email protected]
Abstract: It is hypothesized that the fact whether female and male students were socialized in East or West Germany influences their development of spatial ability differently. In this study 357 students from a West German University (Koblenz) and an East German University (Magdeburg) majoring either in computational visualization (CV) or in non-technical fields (NTF) were examined with the Mental-Rotation Test (MRT). In addition they completed questionnaires on experiences and attitudes related to spatial abilities. At both universities males scored higher on MRT than females and CV students higher than NTF students. However, there were significant interactions between major and gender, and major and university. Males and females, students of different majors and from both universities also differed in their ability-related self-concept, in relevant experiences, in attitudes towards math and physics, and in gender-role attitudes. Linear regression analyses revealed that different attitudinal and experiential variables predict MRT performance in male and female students and that the variance explained by them is higher in females than in males. Our results support the “biological-environmental-interactionist” approach of gender differences in spatial abilities.