Games can help close the gender gap in spatial reasoning

All too often, videogames accentuate the difference between men and women; women characters wear pink and have long hair while the men have huge muscles and big guns. Real-life genre preferences are often accounted for by the difference between men and women’s spatial reasoning, or ability to visualize 3D space. One research study shows that the difference in spatial skills may not be wholly innate, and that playing a videogame can improve these skills. The primary researcher, Jing Feng, explained his findings.

On average, women are not quite as good at rapidly switching attention among different objects and this may be one reason why women do not do as well on spatial tasks. But more important than finding that difference, our second experiment showed that both men and women can improve their spatial skills by playing a video game and that the women catch up to the men. Moreover, the improved performance of both sexes was maintained when we assessed them again after five months.

In other words, learning to navigate a simulated physical space can help you get around in the real world.