A comparison of the performance of Mexican boys and girls on Witkin's cognitive tasks



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



According to Witkin, (1967) in societies where male and female roles are quite dissimilar, boys will tend to perform better than girls on tasks of cognitive abilities. Moreover, girls from these societies will tend to score lower on cognitive tasks than girls from societies where sex role stress is less pronounced. This study attempted to investigate whether boys and girls in a sexually differentiated society, such as Mexico, differed in their performance on cognitive tasks, whether Mexican girls differed from American girls on tasks of cognitive abilities and whether Mexican boys would perform better than girls. The secondary aims of this study were.to investigate the relationship between childrearing techniques, daily experience, and sex role differentiation to performance on cognitive tasks. There were 88 subjects, 51 boys and 37 girls for the group tests. Of this number, 34 boys and 32 girls received the individual test, the Children Embedded Figures Test (CEFT), to asess cognitive ability. Tests given in groups included the Draw a Person Test (DAP), to assess body differentiation, and questionnaires relating to parents' child- rearing techniques, daily life activities and job appropriateness for women. Differences between means for girls and boys were analyzed for significance and correlations coefficients were computed between the CEFT, the DAP and other variables. The results were as follows: (1) Mexican boys performed significantly better than girls on the CEFT (p<.01), confirming Witkin's theory that boys are more field independent than girls; (2) Mexican girls were found to be significantly more field dependent than American girls (p<.01); (3) no significant difference between boys and girls emerged on performance on the DAP, though DAP performance correlated positively, for both boys and girls, with the CEFT performance (r=+.42, p<.01); (4) for boys, performance on cognitive tasks was positively related to instrumental companionship (p<.05)> principled discipline from mother (p<.05) and negatively related to prescription of responsability from mother (p<.05) and physical punishment from father (p<.05); (5) girls' performance was positively related to play creativity in their daily life (p <.05) and amount of independence in housework (p<.05); (6) for both boys and girls performance was positively related to play creativity (p<.01), independence in total daily experience (p< .01) and principled discipline from mother (p<.05); (7) for boys, flexibility in judging appropriateness for jobs for women was negatively related to DAP performance (p<.Ol). In sum. Witkin's main hypotheses concerning the role of sex and childrearing techniques on performance on cognitive tasks were generally confirmed.



Cognitive styles, Mexican American children