Thursday, July 21, 2022

A small percentage of the population struggles with a complete lack of navigational skills; most are men, which is rich

“Where am I?” A snapshot of the developmental topographical disorientation among young Italian adults. Laura Piccardi et al. PLoS, July 20, 2022.

Abstract: In the last decade, several cases affected by Developmental Topographical Disorientation (DTD) have been described. DTD consists of a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the ability to orient in the environment despite well-preserved cognitive functions, and in the absence of a brain lesion or other neurological or psychiatric conditions. Described cases showed different impairments in navigational skills ranging from topographic memory deficits to landmark agnosia. All cases lacked a mental representation of the environment that would allow them to use high-order spatial orientation strategies. In addition to the single case studies, a group study performed in Canada showed that the disorder is more widespread than imagined. The present work intends to investigate the occurrence of the disorder in 1,698 young Italian participants. The sample is deliberately composed of individuals aged between 18 and 35 years to exclude people who could manifest the loss of the ability to navigate as a result of an onset of cognitive decline. The sample was collected between 2016 and 2019 using the Qualtrics platform, by which the Familiarity and Spatial Cognitive Style Scale and anamnestic interview were administered. The data showed that the disorder is present in 3% of the sample and that the sense of direction is closely related to town knowledge, navigational strategies adopted, and gender. In general, males use more complex navigational strategies than females, although DTD is more prevalent in males than in females, in line with the already described cases. Finally, the paper discusses which protective factors can reduce DTD onset and which intervention measures should be implemented to prevent the spread of navigational disorders, which severely impact individuals’ autonomy and social relationships.


The present online investigation aimed to estimate the presence of DTD in a large young Italian sample to better understand the spread of this condition in the population. Thus, we considered the percentage of the DTD in a sample of 1,698 participants, using as a basic criterion 2 standard deviations below the means of the SOD. Then, we also investigated the critical factors predictive of both the SOD and DTD. As in Iaria and Barton’s study [74], we confirmed that the rate of occurrence of the disorder is not a rare condition; rather, it affects 3% of young people undermining their autonomy and ability to work away from family boundaries.

As concerns the predictive factors of SOD, the analyses showed that gender more than educational level is strictly related to SOD. In particular, although females use more landmark-based navigational strategies and complain more difficulties in SOD, males show a higher risk of DTD than females. Indeed, given a glance at the DTD literature, the most of the single cases described are males; this means that although males have better visuospatial and navigational skills than females, they are also the most fragile [6970727577]. Moreover, SOD was related to TK and Survey competencies. Iaria and co-workers [87] clarified that normal navigators can switch from one strategy to another by increasing their familiarity with the environment. This means that it is possible to implement higher navigational skills by acting on environmental knowledge. Also in Nori and Piccardi [37] emerged that when the individual was familiar with the environment, even if s/he generally preferred low navigational strategies, s/he was able to perform more complex navigational tasks in that specific environment, therefore, citizens of Bologna who were familiar with a neighbourhood of the city were able to recognize rotated monuments of the city even though their ability to mentally rotate an object was low [3784].

Consistent with these results, we found that TK and the Survey strategy are negatively related to DTD, suggesting that they can be protective factors in counteracting the onset of DTD. In this vein, Bartonek and co-workers [8890] showed that children with cerebral palsy and motor disability manifested differences in topographic working memory as a function of the degree of autonomy to explore the environment, regardless of motor impairment. Our results also showed that the use of advanced navigational strategies (survey strategies) is not associated with the presence of DTD. In line with this finding, we also showed that individuals who achieve high spatial skills do not complain of RLC, which is generally involved in navigational disorders [60]. Consistent with this result, Giancola et al. [36] showed that survey strategies also characterise samples of experienced navigators, such as military pilots. According to Verde et al. [32339192] this professional category is already selected on the basis of spatial and navigational skills. In addition, the military training would reinforce the survey strategy even more, including all those cognitive processes related to navigation, such as the ability to mentally rotate two and three-dimensional objects [93] or the ability to make directional and metric judgments.

Undoubtedly, the presence of a navigational deficit can also make the subject anxious and more reluctant to explore the environment, so it is difficult to determine how much one comes before the other. This result is particularly interesting in light of Lopez et al.’s [94] study, which showed that the role of the direct experience with exploring hometown on spatial mental representations appeared to be more important in the elderly than in young people. Our sample includes young people, therefore we can imagine that TK and the Survey strategy protects not only seniors from the detrimental effects of ageing on spatial mental representations but also young people in acquiring spatial competence by reducing the risk of navigational disorders.

Given the key role of spatial strategies, our results imply navigational training starting with pre-schoolers, in order to prevent the DTD, such as the one already used in Boccia et al. [95], which allows implementing spatial orientation and autonomy skills from the earliest years of life, starting in kindergarten. The introduction of navigational training in education settings may be useful not only for healthy children but also for children with different types of disabilities (e.g. sensory-motor impairments or acquired brain-damaged or ADHD: [96]), who show several navigational disorders. Furthermore, given that simply enhancing cognitive performance is insufficient to reduce a sense of inadequacy about one’s ability [97], the introduction of training activities specifically designed to improve metacognition would improve self-efficacy in individuals with respect to their SOD and related activities, and by consequence would reduce the risk of DTD. In this vein, De Lisi and Wolford [98] showed children improvements in mental rotation through the daily practice of the popular video game Tetris. This policy of intervention could have important spin-offs increasing also social life.

The current research is not without limitations. First, the study was conducted using an online self-reported survey. In the future it will be important to investigate DTD in presence using a battery of navigational tests. For example, no significant result was found in terms of MoT (active and/or passive movements in the environment). Probably this aspect should be investigated differently by quantifying more precisely the movements and their duration and stratifying the sample by strategies developed. Future work should investigate this component along with environmental characteristics (size of the place where one lives; the presence of distant landmarks; need to travel far to receive medical care or to use school services). Second, individuals with DTD were not tested for other cognitive deficits using a battery of neuropsychological tests, but were only asked to report if they suffered from cognitive disorders. Third, the diagnosis of DTD was not supported by structural imaging data in order to exclude the presence of any brain lesions.

In conclusion, the present study allowed us to identify in a large sample of young Italians the presence of DTD and its occurrence. It has also allowed us to observe protective factors that are associated with good navigational skills and that in the future can be used within protocols for the prevention of the development of spatial orientation disorders, as well as to promote these skills by reducing the gender gap that still emerged in this sample.

Large-scale longitudinal research indicates that people shift to more left-leaning parties up to midlife and then become more likely to swing back towards rightist political parties

Age and vote choice: Is there a conservative shift among older voters? Benny Geys, Tom-Reiel Heggedal, Rune J. Sørensen. Electoral Studies, Volume 78, August 2022, 102485.

Abstract: Ageing is often believed to induce a movement towards the right of the political spectrum. Yet, empirical evidence remains inconclusive due to a dearth of longitudinal datasets covering multiple cohorts. Using eleven rotating panels of the Norwegian Election Studies (1977–2017) and exploiting first-derivative properties of the vote choice function, our empirical approach identifies non-linear life-cycle effects while controlling for cohort and period effects. Our main findings indicate that shifting towards the left is more likely among the young (under 40 years) whereas shifting towards the right occurs at an older age (over 55 years). Evaluating potential mechanisms, we find that individuals’ income, retirement, family status and political interest explain only a small part of the observed ageing effect. Life-cycle shifts in (some) policy preferences may play a bigger role. Finally, aging effects are similar across women and men, and only marginally stronger among groups with lower education and income levels.

Keywords: Population ageingVote choiceAge-period-cohortRotating panelNorway

4. Conclusion

Up to the 1960s, party choice was generally viewed as a result of stable party identifications and social class (“Michigan school”). Party preferences and political attitudes were assumed to be shaped during an individual's ‘formative’ or ‘impressionable’ years in adolescence and early adulthood, and to remain highly stable thereafter. Subsequent literature has criticized this view based on the recognition that citizens may well change their partisan preferences and ideological positioning over the life cycle. Consistent with the latter view, our analysis shows that people shift to more left-leaning parties up to midlife and then become more likely to swing back towards rightist political parties. These results are obtained using four decades of high-quality Norwegian Election Studies, which feature individual-level rotating panels that allow us to track party shifts over a fixed four-year election cycle.

While our analysis rests on a methodological innovation that allows identifying (non-linear) age effects while controlling for cohort and period effects, it naturally remains a challenge to track the exact mechanisms underlying this result. Nonetheless, our findings by and large reject the notion that social and political ageing can account for much of individuals' tendency to shift towards the right of the political spectrum as they age. This also implies that shifts in party choices over the life cycle are unlikely to be due to differences in individuals’ reliance on public sector transfers and services that accompany such social and political ageing. An alternative mechanism is that party choices can shift over the life-cycle due to changing perspectives on national identify and cultural values. Our evidence here provides partial support. While we find no evidence that fiscal policy preferences affect our estimated age affect, immigration, environmental and rural policy preferences do appear to account for a significant part of the observed ageing effect in vote choices.

Unfortunately, our data do not allow us to explore the role that changes over the life-cycle in individuals’ psychological traits may have on the ageing effects observed in our analysis. Previous research, however, has found some evidence suggestive of age-related psychological and personality changes. For instance, ageing has been linked to increasing levels of conservatism, authoritarianism, prejudice, and self-discipline, as well as lower levels of openness to change and cognitive flexibility (for reviews, see Tilley and Evans, 2014Peterson et al., 2020). Evaluating whether – and, if so, to what extent – such psychological changes can account for the observed ageing effect would require direct measures of psychological traits at multiple points across the life-cycle. While these are not included in our dataset, we consider the further empirical verification of such psychological mechanisms an important avenue for future research.

Finally, we show that life-cycle effects in individuals’ vote choice are somewhat stronger among individuals with lower income levels. Hence, while the average aging effect observed within our overall sample is unaffected when controlling for income, different income groups within our sample display distinct (subgroup-average) age effects. This suggests that the increasing tendency among well-earning professionals to support left-wing parties in recent decades (e.g., Häusermann et al., 2012Attewell, 2021Gethin et al., 2022) need not exclusively derive from generational replacement or cohort effects – as recently argued by, among others, Gethin et al. (2022).

Cooperation among strangers has been hypothesized to have declined in the U.S. over the past several decades, an alarming trend that has potential far-reaching societal consequences; reality says otherwise

Yuan, M., Spadaro, G., Jin, S., Wu, J., Kou, Y., Van Lange, P. A. M., & Balliet, D. (2022). Did cooperation among strangers decline in the United States? A cross-temporal meta-analysis of social dilemmas (1956–2017). Psychological Bulletin, 148(3-4), 129–157. Jul 2022.

Abstract: Cooperation among strangers has been hypothesized to have declined in the United States over the past several decades, an alarming trend that has potential far-reaching societal consequences. To date, most research that supports a decline in cooperation has relied on self-report measures or archival data. Here, we utilize the history of experimental research on cooperation in situations involving conflicting interests (i.e., social dilemmas). We meta-analyzed 511 studies conducted between 1956 and 2017 with 660 unique samples and effect sizes involving 63,342 participants to test whether the average level of cooperation observed in these studies had declined over time. We found no evidence for a decline in cooperation over the 61-year period. Instead, we found a slight increase in cooperation over time. In addition, some societal indicators (e.g., income inequality, societal wealth, urbanization level, and percentage of people living alone) measured 10 to 5 years prior to measures of cooperation were found to be positively associated with cooperation, suggesting that they may be potential societal underpinnings of increases in cooperation. These findings challenge the idea that social capital and civic cooperation among strangers have declined in the United States over time, and we offer directions for future research to understand causes of an increase in cooperation.