Cognitive function

For many decades consistent sex differences in tests of cognitive abilities have been widely reported. During certain developmental stages - in particular during the first years of life and from puberty to early adulthood - girls surpass boys in several verbal skills. In contrast, males excel after about the tenth year and in adulthood at nonverbal skills, especially at spatial rotation and manipulation, at the related concept of field independence, and at mathematical reasoning (Halpern 2000; Hyde and Linn 1988; Hyde etal. 1990; Kimura 1996; Linn and Petersen 1985; Maccoby and Jacklin 1974; Masters and Sanders 1993; Wittig and Petersen 1979). In recent meta-analyses it was found that gender differences in cognitive functioning have been decreasing since the seventies; however, they are still significant (Hyde and Linn 1988; Hyde etal. 1990; Linn and Petersen 1985; Stumpf and Klieme 1989).

Many sources of variance contribute to the gender differences which have been observed: culture, physical environment, socialization practices, life experiences, X-chromosome linkage of spatial and partly of verbal skills as well as the degree of hemispheric lateralization of verbal and nonverbal processes (Baenninger and Newcombe 1989; Blatter 1982; Hahn 1987; Vandenberg and Kuse 1979; Waber 1977; Wynn et al. 1996; Zitzmann et al. 2001). It is also generally accepted that sex hormones play a critical role in sex-typical cognitive abilities as well as in interindividual differences within the sexes.

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