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Factors mediating the sex difference observed In targeting tasks



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Targeting is a skill that involves the accurate projection of an object to a target; this requires accurate integration of visual information with spatial and motor skills. Targeting tasks demonstrate a consistent male advantage. Contrary to popular belief, this male advantage is not accounted for by participants’ throwing experience or their size. The factors that mediate or account for the sex difference observed in targeting accuracy have not yet been identified. This dissertation addresses issues following from two prominent theories that attempt to explain this sex difference. The first theory proposes that the male advantage on targeting accuracy is due to the task’s proxemic and/or motoric characteristics, whereas the second theory proposes that the sex difference in targeting accuracy is due to differential exposure to androgenic or estrogenic sex hormone concentrations. The first and second studies in this dissertation follow from the first theory, examining whether changing the motoric or proxemic characteristics of targeting tasks will mediate the sex difference. The third study is related to the second theory; it examines the relations among direct and indirect measures of prenatal and circulating sex hormone concentrations and targeting accuracy within samples of men and women. Collectively the results from studies 1 and 2 indicate that the proxemic and motoric characteristics are related to the sex difference on targeting tasks; specifically, targeting tasks must involve only fine motor movements and be performed in intrapersonal space in order for the male advantage to be negated.The results from study 3 indicate that men who were exposed to relatively high prenatal testosterone concentrations and continue to have relatively high circulating testosterone concentrations perform less accurately on targeting tasks than do all other groups of men. The results from study 3 also indicate that women exposed to relatively high prenatal testosterone concentrations target significantly more accurately than women that were exposed to relatively low prenatal testosterone concentrations. As well, the results showed that women who use oral contraceptives target significantly more accurately when they are not currently taking the exogenous estrogen supplements (menstrual phase) than when they are taking the supplements (midluteal phase). These results are discussed in light of the two prominent theories explaining the sex difference in targeting accuracy. A synthesized theory is proposed, and directions for future research are discussed.



estradiol, brain



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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