Are men or women better navigators? It’s the guys, according to a new report.
Researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara recently conducted a study, published in the Memory & Cognition journal, to determine which group is better at directions.
To do so, they conducted two small studies. In the first one, they asked 68 participants to find their way through a computer maze to reach designated locations. They were also required to answer questions about their sense of direction, navigation strategies and whether they played video games.
In the second one, 72 participants were given a slightly different maze. Unlike the first one, this one did not include “distal landmarks,” such as trees or mountains. However, these subjects were still asked to complete a questionnaire.
After analyzing the results, they found that “men were significantly more efficient than women, even after controlling for the effects of strategy,” the researchers said in a statement.
The analysts discovered that men were more likely to take shortcuts to reach their destination, while women were more likely to follow learned routes and wanders. They said wandering suggested that someone does not have enough information about a certain area.
However, they did note their results were based on the average performance between men and women, and some women were just as good at directions as men.
Although the researchers are still exploring why there are differences between the sexes, they said it “may be related to the difference in the ability to learn the layout of an environment with a given amount of experience.”
They also listed video games as a possible factor.
“It is also possible that the sex difference in efficiency is due in part to facility with the interface or navigation in virtual environments, as men tend to spend more time playing video games,” they wrote.
They now hope to continue their investigations to examine how people navigate real environments versus virtual ones.