Thursday, 22 October 2009

Are we Losing our Sense of Direction?

Are we losing our Sense of Direction? What a rhetoric question. Without the context this does not really make sense, or does it?
Usually as things are starting to be fun, some one comes over to tell you how bad this is and that you should not do it because of this or this or even this reason. At least it was like this when you were a teen, battling for independence with beloved ones.
However this is long gone and things have changed since. And still the same situation. But now we are wiser and think twice, maybe it is true, or at least partially, there might be something about this other opinion I have not thought of in this way.
Here we re with the news, finally, GPS is BAD!
Yes, you are right, your SatNav is doing harm to you as you drive. At least this is what the headlines of the news on the New York Times blog and the walrus magazine suggest Actually it is all based on an article by Alex Hutchinson.
We actually have an other SatNav article her on urbanTick, that addresses the problem of arriving at the desired location but in this case it was about spelling the destination name correctly.
In general Alex Hutchinson points out in hi article that navigating is a learning process that is a dual relationship between brain and action. The more we use it the better we are at it, but it needs to be maintained.
Scientists have identified an area in the brain, the hippocampus, to be responsible or this sort of navigation task. “The brains of London cabbies have outsized rear hippocampuses, because they are required to painstakingly learn the byzantine lanes and byways of the Old World city. (NYblog)” Most of us will not attempt to learn the apparently 25’000 street names and thousands of landmarks required for becoming a cabby. However navigating and orientating do not necessarily require you to know all the names of the streets. Other elements are important in day-to-day navigation. Hutchinson refers to Veronique Bohbot a researcher at McConnell Brain Imaging Center: “Bohbot demonstrated in a widely cited 2003 study that our mapping strategies fall into two basic categories. One is a spatial strategy that involves learning the relationships between various landmarks — creating a cognitive map in your head. The other is a stimulus-response approach that encodes specific routes by memorizing a series of cues, as in: get off the bus when you see the glass skyscraper, then walk toward the big park. For their study, Bohbot created a virtual maze that tested both methods; they found that about half of us prefer spatial strategies, while the other half prefer stimulus-response” (walrus magazine). We probably use both of these techniques depending on the situation, but most likely we prefer one over the other. What navigation type are you?

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