Prenatal testosterone does not explain sex differences in spatial ability

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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

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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.


    • Prenatal testosterone does not explain sex differences in spatial ability

      Rights statement: Copyright 2018 the authors. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited.

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    Original languageEnglish
    Article number13653
    Number of pages8
    JournalNature Scientific Reports
    Journal publication date12 Sep 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2018

    ID: 156737120