Prenatal testosterone does not explain sex differences in spatial ability

Toivainen, Teemu; Pannini, Giulia; Papageorgiou, Kostas A.; Malanchini, Margherita; Rimfeld, Kaili; Shakeshaft, Nicholas and Kovas, Yulia. 2018. Prenatal testosterone does not explain sex differences in spatial ability. Scientific Reports, 8(13653), ISSN 2045-2322 [Article]

s41598-018-31704-y.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The most consistent sex differences in cognition are found for spatial ability, in which males, on average, outperform females. Utilizing a twin design, two studies have shown that females with male co-twins perform better than females with female co-twins on a mental rotation task. According to the Twin Testosterone Transfer hypothesis (TTT) this advantage is due to in-uterine transmission of testosterone from males to females. The present study tested the TTT across 14 different spatial ability measures, including mental rotation tasks, in a large sample of 19–21-year-old twins. Males performed significantly better than females on all spatial tasks, with effect sizes ranging from η2 = 0.02 to η2 = 0.16. Females with a male co-twin outperformed females with a female co-twin in two of the tasks. The effect sizes for both differences were negligible (η2 < 0.02). Contrary to the previous studies, our results gave no indication that prenatally transferred testosterone, from a male to a female twin, influences sex differences in spatial ability.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Human behaviour, Sexual selection, Cognition, Spatial ability, Mental rotation tasks

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



20 August 2018Accepted
12 September 2018Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 Feb 2019 11:59

Last Modified:

15 Jan 2024 10:55

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)