Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Gender differences in spatial navigation: Characterizing wayfinding behaviors

Gender differences in spatial navigation: Characterizing wayfinding behaviors. Ascher K. Munion et al. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, August 20 2019.

Abstract: Men show a consistent spatial navigation advantage over women, which is often attributed to their increased use of survey spatial strategies. But what about men’s navigation gives them an advantage? One possibility is that the way in which men explore environments is fundamentally different, leading to better navigational performance. To test this possibility, this study investigated whether there are gender differences in wayfinding behaviors during navigation that relate to navigational success in a real-world, large-scale, unconstrained navigation task. West Point cadets were given a masked GPS tracker and sent into a large-scale, natural environment to locate targets indicated on maps. We assessed how they explored the environment by computing three measures from the GPS tracks and related these measures to their ability to find the assigned target locations. We also tested whether their self-reported spatial ability related to navigational success. Results showed that males performed better than females, which replicates prior work. Further, traveling longer distances without changing course, pausing less, and fewer returns to previously visited locations were significantly related to the ability to locate the correct target. Consistent with full mediation, the significant relationship between gender and navigational success is fully accounted for by men and women producing different wayfinding behaviors, which in turn predict differences in navigational success. Further, there was no unique relationship between self-reported spatial skills and navigational success. This study is a first step toward showing the relationship between gender, wayfinding behaviors, and navigational success in a natural, real-world navigation task.

Keywords: Navigation Gender differences Wayfinding Spatial cognition

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