The importance of spatial ability in educational pursuits and the world of work was examined, with particular attention devoted to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) domains. Participants were drawn from a stratified random sample of U.S. high schools (Grades 9-12, N = 400,000) and were tracked for 11+ years; their longitudinal findings were aligned with pre-1957 findings and with contemporary data from the Graduate Record Examination and the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth. For decades, spatial ability assessed during adolescence has surfaced as a salient psychological attribute among those adolescents who subsequently go on to achieve advanced educational credentials and occupations in STEM. Results solidify the generalization that spatial ability plays a critical role in developing expertise in STEM and suggest, among other things, that including spatial ability in modern talent searches would identify many adolescents with potential for STEM who are currently being missed.

Full citation: 

Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. (2009). Spatial ability for STEM domains: Aligning over 50 years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(4), 817-835.

Spatial ability for STEM domains

J. Wai, D. Lubinski and C. Benbow