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Title: Gender Differences in Mental Rotation: The Effect of Single-Sex Schools
Authors: Eyre, Elizabeth
Advisors: Girgus, Joan
Contributors: Shelton, Nicole
Department: Psychology
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: Previous research has suggested that women may be inferior to men in math ability. More recently it has been shown that this claim is no longer valid. While this gender gap in math has diminished over the past few decades, women continue to be underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and continue to lag behind their male peers in mental rotation ability. This paper strives to answer two questions: Can the gender environment of education affect math ability? and What contributes to the gender differences in STEM fields? A study is conducted testing Princeton undergraduates (n=124) and looks at mental rotation ability, math ability, anxiety, vulnerability to stereotype threat, and math attitudes. It is hypothesized that women from single-sex schools will demonstrate high levels of mental rotation ability since they had no stereotype threat in their previous learning environment; however, women from single-sex schools were the worst performing group. Women from single-sex schools were the most vulnerable to stereotype threat, and greater vulnerability was correlated with worse mental rotation scores. Overall, there were no gender differences in math or mental rotation abilities, which indicates the gender difference in math ability has disappeared. Despite women being just as strong at math as men, men majored in STEM fields at a higher rate than women. The results indicate that there may be a number of other causes leading to the disproportionate number of men in STEM fields, and thus further research should be conducted to explore this phenomenon.
Extent: 86 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Psychology, 1930-2016

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