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24-09-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2016

Psychological Research 6/2016

Keep calm! Gender differences in mental rotation performance are modulated by habitual expressive suppression

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2016
Auteurs:
Anne-Katharina Fladung, Markus Kiefer

Abstract

Men have been frequently found to perform more accurately than women in mental rotation tasks. However, men and women also differ with regard to the habitual use of emotion regulation strategies, particularly with regard to expressive suppression, i.e., the suppression of emotional expression in behavior. As emotional suppression is more often used by men, emotion regulation strategies might be a variable modulating gender differences in mental rotation performance. The present study, therefore, examined the influences of gender and emotion regulation strategies on mental rotation performance accuracy and feedback processing. Twenty-eight men and 28 women matched for relevant demographic variables performed mental rotation tasks of varying difficulty over a prolonged time. Emotional feedback was given immediately after each trial. Results showed that women reported to use expressive suppression less frequently than men. Women made more errors in the mental rotation task than men confirming earlier demonstrations of gender differences. Furthermore, women were more impaired by the negative feedback as indicated by the increased likelihood of subsequent errors compared with men. Task performance of women not habitually using expressive suppression was most inferior and most strongly influenced by failure feedback compared with men. Women using expressive suppression more habitually did not significantly differ in mental rotation accuracy and feedback processing from men. Hence, expressive suppression reduces gender differences in mental rotation accuracy by improving cognitive performance following failure feedback.

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