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Women Can't Park? Not So Fast, Say Researchers

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Women Can't Park? Not So Fast, Say Researchers

Research has shown that women perform less well at spatial tasks, such as parking a car or reading a map, than men. A new study suggests confidence is the key.

How often have you heard men say, “Women just can’t park”? And how much more difficult is slipping into that tight spot with your husband sitting in the passenger seat? Sadly, research over the years has corroborated the notion that, when it comes to spatial tasks such as parallel parking and map-reading, women just don’t do as well as men. 

In a remarkably generous gesture, two male psychology researchers decided to find out why this disparity in spatial competence between genders might exist. Dr. Zachary Estes of the University of Warwick and Dr. Sydney Felker from the University of Georgia Health Center decided to look at the effect of confidence on people’s ability to perform spatial tasks. 

They recruited an equal number of male and female participants in a series of four experiments aimed at discovering the role of confidence in performing well in spatial tests. Their study, called “Confidence Mediates the Sex Difference in Mental Rotation Performance,” says it all.

Though we’ve long known the power of positive thinking, this research seems to add to the proof.

According to Estes, “… we manipulated people’s confidence in our experiments with spatial tasks … and it does seem that confidence is a key factor in how well women perform at this kind of task. Our research suggests that by making a woman feel better about herself, she’ll become better at spatial tasks—which in the real world means tasks such as parking the car or reading a map.”

Interestingly, reports of this study have elicited guffaws from women who already know the value of confidence-boosting. How else to explain the improvement in men’s parking skills?

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