Prenatal testosterone does not explain sex differences in spatial ability

Teemu Toivainen, Giulia Pannini, Kostas A. Papageorgiou, Margherita Malanchini, Kaili Rimfeld, Nicholas Shakeshaft, Yulia Kovas

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19 Citations (Scopus)
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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13653
Number of pages8
JournalNature Scientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2018


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