Crossing the hands is more confusing for females than males
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A conflict between an egocentric and an external reference frame can be highlighted by examining the marked deficit observed with tactile temporal order judgments (TOJ) when the hands are crossed. The anecdotally-reported large individual differences in the magnitude of this crossed-hands deficit were explored here by testing a large group of participants (48; 24 female). Given that females have been shown to be more visually dependent than males in the potentially related rod-and-frame test (RFT), we hypothesized that females would show a larger influence of the external reference frame (i.e., a larger crossed-hands deficit). As predicted, female participants produced larger tactile TOJ deficits compared to our male participants. We also administered the RFT in these participants with hands crossed and uncrossed. Crossing the hands increased the effect of the frame in the RFT, more so for females than males, further highlighting the potential difference in the way that each sex accommodates reference frame conflicts. Finally, examining the relation between the two tasks revealed a significant correlation, with larger frame effects associated with larger crossed-hands TOJ deficits, but this only held for males. We speculate that sex-specific differences in multisensory processing and spatial ability may explain why females are less able to disambiguate a crossed-hands posture than are males.
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