Adults' Demonstration of Underlying Euclidean Concepts in Relation to Task Context

Lynn S. Liben, Susan L. Golbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In studies in which Piagetian water-level (horizontality) and plumb-line (verticality) tasks are administered to young adults, females are typically less successful than males. Women may, however, have the underlying spatial competence to use horizontal and vertical axes, but may be less likely to activate this competence because they lack adequate knowledge of the relevant physical phenomena. To evaluate this possibility, 80 male and 80 female college students were given horizontality and verticality tasks in which knowledge of the physical phenomena was, or was not, relevant. Sex differences were evident only when knowledge of the physical phenomena was needed. These data support a performance rather than a competence interpretation of adult women's difficulties in the standard Piagetian tasks. Developmental and educational implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-490
Number of pages4
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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