Friday, 18 September 2015

Spatial anxiety


I have many anxieties, but not spatial ones, like how to find one’s way around a shopping mall, so this title struck me as a little mysterious at first. This TEDS team have found that spatial anxiety is 60% heritable and spatial ability 68% heritable, both are only weakly negatively correlated, and that the relationship between spatial anxiety and spatial ability is largely explained by genetic factors with no evidence of shared environmental influences. Yet another finding that shared influences do not behave as we imagined they would decades ago (and the way so many people still believe that they operate).


Margherita Malanchini 1, Nicholas Shakeshaft 2, Kaili Rimfeld 2, Maja Rodic3 , Kerry Schofield2 , Robert Plomin2 , Yulia Kovas1,3

1 Goldsmiths University of London,

2 King’s College London.

3 Tomsk State University.

Emotion regulation factors are consistently found to be negatively associated with performance in cognitive tasks and academic settings. For example, mathematics anxiety predicts low mathematics performance cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Mathematics anxiety is believed to be domain specific as only modestly correlated with general anxiety. The present study focuses on investigating the etiology of spatial anxiety, a largely unexplored emotion regulation construct, and the origins of its association with other emotion regulation factors (mathematics and general anxiety) and with performance in a test of spatial ability.

Our sample included 1,450 18-20 year-old twin pairs (588 MZ and 862 DZ), part of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). The twins completed an online battery involving three self-report questionnaires: spatial anxiety (a newly developed measure), mathematics anxiety (an adapted version of the AMAS; Hopko et al., 2003), and general anxiety (the GAD-7; Löwe et al., 2008). The same online battery included a newly developed spatial task examining the ability to mentally manipulate 2D and 3D shapes by rotating them and visualizing their occluded parts.

Spatial anxiety was found to be substantially heritable (60%) and the rest of the variance was explained by non-shared environmental factors. Spatial ability was also substantially heritable (68%). A moderate negative correlation was observed between spatial ability and general anxiety (r = -.13). However a more substantial correlation was found between spatial ability and spatial anxiety (r = -.21). These correlations were largely mediated by genetic factors. The relationships remained significant after accounting for g. All measures of anxiety correlated modestly (average r = .42).

However, multivariate genetic analyses showed that spatial anxiety was largely independent etiologically from mathematics and general anxiety. Findings from the present investigation contribute to our understating of the relationship between emotion regulation and performance in cognitive tasks. Specifically, this is the first study investigating the association between spatial anxiety and spatial ability using a genetically sensitive design. Multivariate genetic results suggest that the relationship between spatial anxiety and spatial ability is largely explained by genetic factors with no evidence of shared environmental influences. These findings enhance our understanding of the complex relationship between anxiety and spatial ability

1 comment:

  1. No American authors: could that be because cities laid out on N-S grids don't generate such anxiety?