Navigational Differences

News Note

By Darren Buford

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2003.

The sexes at battle once again — he says go north, she says turn by the gas station. But instead of there being a clear victor in the war of navigation, both may be correct according to a new study published in Behavioral Neuroscience. Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan have found men and women do equally fine with receiving directions — when done so according to their preference. For instance, men do better when given abstract spatial cues, such as compass directions or distance. Women, on the other hand, do better when given landmarks.

Speculation on why these differences exist involves considering the lifestyles of our ancestors. Early man was a hunter and often to traveled long distances in order to track herds for food. Ultimately, it was easier for the men to return home using spatial directions than landmarks because there would have been too many to remember. Women were gatherers, thus their need to roam away from home was minimal. Instead, they sought out plants and berries close by; thus, remembering landmarks proved most valuable for sustenance.