Ramirez, Gunderson, Levine, & Beilock (2012)

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Spatial Anxiety Relates to Spatial Abilities as a Function of Working Memory in Children


Spatial ability is a strong predictor of students' pursuit of higher education in science and mathematics. However, very little is known about the affective factors that influence individual differences in spatial ability, particularly at a young age. We examine the role of spatial anxiety in young children's performance on a mental rotation task. We show that even at a young age, children report experiencing feelings of nervousness at the prospect of engaging in spatial activities. Moreover, we show that these feelings are associated with reduced mental rotation ability among students with high but not low working memory (WM). Interestingly, this WM × spatial anxiety interaction was only found among girls. We discuss these patterns of results in terms of the problem-solving strategies that boys versus girls use in solving mental rotation problems.


Ramirez, G., Gunderson, E. A., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). Spatial anxiety relates to spatial abilities as a function of working memory in children. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(3), 474–487. http://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2011.616214
author = {Ramirez, Gerardo and Gunderson, Elizabeth A. and Levine, Susan C. and Beilock, Sian L.},
doi = {10.1080/17470218.2011.616214},
journal = {The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology},
number = {3},
pages = {474--487},
title = {{Spatial anxiety relates to spatial abilities as a function of working memory in children}},
url = {http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/ref/10.1080/17470218.2011.616214},
volume = {65},
year = {2012}