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Cognitive sex differences and hemispheric asymmetry : a critical review of 40 years of research.

Hirnstein, M. and Hugdahl, K. and Hausmann, M. (2019) 'Cognitive sex differences and hemispheric asymmetry : a critical review of 40 years of research.', Laterality., 24 (2). pp. 204-252.

Abstract

According to a longstanding view, sex differences in cognitive abilities such as mental rotation or verbal memory arise from sex differences in hemispheric asymmetry: males are thought to be more lateralized than females which boosts their spatial but hampers their verbal skills. This idea sparked great interest and, even though it lost support in the 1990s, it is still put forward in contemporary (popular) scientific papers and textbooks. We aimed to provide a comprehensive review that summarizes the last 40 years of research. First, we confirm previous findings that the stronger hemispheric asymmetry in males is very small but robust. Second, we conclude that stronger hemispheric asymmetry, in general, does not enhance spatial and reduce verbal performance. Crucially, we carried out a systematic literature review showing that cognitive sex differences often emerge in the absence of sex differences in hemispheric asymmetry (and vice versa), implying the two phenomena are at least partly independent of each other. At present, there is insufficient data to conclude that sex differences in hemispheric asymmetry and cognitive performance are uncorrelated. However, we can conclude that sex differences in hemispheric asymmetry are certainly not the driving force behind sex differences in cognitive functioning.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
Download PDF
(3982Kb)
Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1080/1357650X.2018.1497044
Publisher statement:© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:29 June 2018
Date deposited:17 July 2018
Date of first online publication:09 July 2018
Date first made open access:No date available

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