Men Directions, Give
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men and women may not only be from
two different planets--Mars and Venus--they also seem to have
two totally different ways to reach these and other destinations.
But whether the man or woman is the superior navigator appears
to depend on the navigation strategy used, researchers report.
Previous studies have indicated that women tend to rely on landmarks
and other environmental information when attempting to reach a particular
location. Men, however, tend to use Euclidean or orientation strategies
such as specific north and south directions and exact distances,
which is thought to give them the advantage of correctly assessing
their position and changing direction after making a wrong turn.
"The take-home message of this research is that men and women
differ in their ability to use different features of the environment
as cues for navigating," lead study author Dr. Deborah M. Saucier
of the University of Saskatchewan told Reuters Health.
"Men are less able than women to use landmark-based instructions,
and women are less able than men to use abstract Euclidean instructions,"
To investigate, Saucier and her colleagues performed a study
in which 42 undergraduate men and women had to find their way
to four unknown destinations on their university campus using
a set of either orientation-style or landmark instructions.
Overall, women who followed orientation-style directions made
many more mistakes and arrived at the destination much later than
women who followed landmark directions and than men who followed
either orientation or landmark directions, the investigators report
in the June issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.
Furthermore, in a second pencil and paper navigation task involving
40 different university students, men who followed orientation-style
instructions again made fewer mistakes than women who followed
orientation-style instructions. These men also outperformed males
who followed landmark instructions, making fewer errors and completing
the exercise more quickly, the report indicates.
Women who followed landmark-style instructions, however, completed
the exercise more quickly than men who followed similar directions
and women who followed orientation-style directions.
Thus, the findings suggest that "when women are given the appropriate
type of instructions, they do as well as men at navigation tasks,"
The reason for the apparent sex-specific superiority in navigation
strategies may be associated with the biological differences between
men and women, according to Saucier. Her previous research findings
suggest that the hormone testosterone may have an effect on one's
"Women with relatively high levels of endogenous testosterone...are
better able to incorporate their current position in the environment
and to follow abstract-based instructions--such as go 100 meters
and turn north," she said. "The same can be said for men with
relatively low levels of testosterone--they are better at navigating
using abstract features of the environment than men with relatively
high levels of testosterone.
"These results point to a biological basis for these abilities,
rather than a social-learning perspective," she explained.
SOURCE: Behavioral Neuroscience 2002;116:403-410.
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