Sex Differences in Directional Cue Use in a Virtual Landscape

Xiaoqian J. Chai, Lucia F. Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


How males and females differ in their use of cues for spatial navigation is an important question. Although women and men appear to respond differently to close and distant objects, object features and the geometry of spaces, the common denominator of these sex-specific cue preferences is unknown. By constructing virtual landscapes from either directional (graded, gradient) or positional (pinpoint) cues, the authors tested the hypothesis that sex differences arise from preferences for cues that provide primarily direction or position, as predicted by the parallel map model of the cognitive map. Women and men learned a target location in the presence of either one or the other class of cues. Men were more accurate in estimating the target location overall, but the navigation accuracy difference between men and women was greater in the presence of directional cues. Our findings provide support for the parallel map model and suggest that the previously reported male advantage in the presence of distant objects and geometric cues derives from their function as directional cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-283
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • cue use
  • hippocampus
  • sex differences
  • spatial navigation
  • virtual environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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