An academic at Aston University has argued that it is activities such as building with LEGO bricks as children that leads to men being better with spatial skills than women.
Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain and professor of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University, was at the Hay Festival discussing her new book. The Times reports her as saying: “on average, men do have some better ability at spatial skills”.
Rather than this being down to any inherent biological difference, the academic argues that this is due to differences in experiences that children have growing up, with boys more likely to play video games and build with LEGO pieces. “Brains reflect the lives they have lived, not just the sex of their owners,” she writes in The Gendered Brain. The different toys children are given, according to her research, directly affects how they grow up and the skills they develop.
“The issue of map reading, which is a kind of manifestation of a spatial skill, is actually supposedly one area where there’s really robust differences,” she said at the festival. “It is difficult to know if the adult difference you see is really a manifestation of perhaps a tiny biological difference at the beginning which has been magnified by a whole range of different experiences.”
Professor Rippon has worked with the Let Toys Be Toys campaign to argue for toys to be marketed at children in general, rather than at specific genders.