Why Some People Can Navigate the World, While Others Get Lost

We all know at least one person who can magically find their way through an unfamiliar city, and at least one person who get hopelessly lost every time they leave familiar territory. Maybe you are one of those folks. Are people born with a sense of direction -or the lack of one? Do navigation skills depend on some innate talent or can it be trained? Or could a good sense of space and location be genetic? Scientists had trouble pinpointing the source of these skills until recently. GPS and virtual reality equipment have enabled more precise experiments that show why some people manage to get around better than others.

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Navigational skill tends to run in families, but that doesn’t mean it’s genetic. Recent research points to a sense of direction being a matter of upbringing. Maybe you learn navigation from your parents, or possibly the culture itself. Some cultures, like Nordic countries and indigenous people of the Amazon, do better at navigating on average because everyone goes outside and travels from a young age. People who grow up in older and more eccentric European cities navigate better than those in planned cities laid out in a grid because they are forced to learn various methods of getting around. Experience matters. But what does this mean for younger generations who don’t roam the neighborhood, depend on GPS, and see no reason to learn map reading or wayfinding? Read about the research into a sense of direction at Knowable magazine. -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Archibald Ballantine)

Source: neatorama

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