Spatial skills, or the skills needed to perform complex mental actions such as reading a map or assembling something, can be improved with hard work and the right tools, according to new research. Improving spatial skills is important because children who do particularly well in spatial tasks are more likely to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The research analyzed "217 research studies on educational interventions to improve spatial thinking."
The analysis of these studies was conducted by David Uttal and other researchers at Northwestern University, along with Nora Newcombe, professor of psychology at Temple and principal investigator of the National Science Foundation's Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center.
"There are limitations involved with looking at individual studies one by one," said Newcombe. "What we found when we brought together this large body of literature on training effects and analyzed it was a very powerful message. People of all ages can improve at all types of spatial skills through training, period."
The researchers found that spatial skills are malleable and that spatial training can be applied to other fields.
"Our findings have significant real world implications by showing that training can have an impact on a technological workforce. With the right training more high school students will be able to consider engineering and other scientific fields as a career option," Newcombe added.
For the purposes of discussion here, researchers noted that video game playing can increase spatial skills in children.
"Perhaps the most important finding from this meta-analysis is that several different forms of training can be highly successful," the authors say.
"Our hope is that our findings on how to train spatial skills will ultimately lead to highly effective ways to improve STEM performance," said Uttal, the lead author on the study.
The meta-analysis of Spatial Skill Training advantages has been published this month in Psychological Bulletin, the journal of the American Psychological Association.
Source: Science Daily