A meta-analysis of sex differences in human navigation skills
There are inconsistent reports regarding behavioral sex differences in the human navigation literature. This meta-analysis quantifies the overall magnitude of sex differences in large-scale navigation skills in a variety of paradigms and populations, and examines potential moderators, using 694 effect sizes from 266 studies and a multilevel analytic approach. Overall, male participants outperform female participants, with a small to medium effect size (d = 0.34 to 0.38). The type of task, the type of dependent variable and the testing environment significantly contribute to variability in effect sizes, although there are only a few situations in which differences are either nonexistent or very large. Pointing and recall tasks (and the deviation scores associated with them) show larger sex differences than distance estimation tasks or learning to criterion. Studies with children younger than 13 years showed much smaller effect sizes (d = .15) than older age groups. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding sex differences in human spatial navigation and identify avenues for future navigation research.