[Paper spotlight] Spatial cognitive ability, exploration, and formal education in traditional and transitioning populations

This paper was presented by Helen Davis in the session Ages and Stages at the 2018 AAA annual meeting. Helen is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.

Abstract: In many societies, males range farther than females, and this greater environmental experience may foster better spatial ability. We evaluated these relationships among 6-18 year old Tsimané and OvaTwa children, two populations with subsistence based economies with vastly different ecologies. In both societies girls and boys have few constraints on spatial exploration. Mobility was assessed through GPS tracking and interview, spatial ability through pointing accuracy, perspective-taking and mental rotation, and harm avoidance through interview. Few gender differences were found in mobility or spatial ability. Among the Tsimané we also found that greater regional travel and winding daily tracks were predictive of better navigation, however, increased time in school was inversely correlated with both regional travel and navigational ability.

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