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Stereotypes Describe Men as Better Navigators Than Women. Here's What Science Has to Say

In general, males of various species including humans are believed to be better navigators than females but the reason behind this belief might stun you.
PUBLISHED 2 DAYS AGO
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Beyzaa Yurtkuran
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Beyzaa Yurtkuran

Among several negative gender stereotypes, there's a notion in society that men are better at navigation than women. Although subtle differences in navigation skills between men and women do exist, there is a clear lack of scientific evidence supporting the validity of this statement. Instead researchers have now found evidence that contradicts this claim. In a study published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, many have debunked the age-old myth of men being better navigators than women.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Leah Newhouse
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Leah Newhouse

A group of multi-institutional researchers has deduced that "the male advantage in navigation has always been the most widely documented sex difference and has so far been put down to an evolutionary response to sex differences in home range size." Home range size refers to the size of an area in which an animal travels, for its daily activities, as mentioned in the study. Scientists from the University of Illinois along with a few other organizations came together to compare how "sexes differed in home range size and spatial ability" across 21 different species.

Asian small-clawed otters, chimpanzees, the Diablito poison frog, the European rabbit, the rat, and human beings were some of the species that were studied. "Over the past half-century, significant resources have gone into testing the sex-specific adaptation hypothesis as an explanation for sex differences in navigation abilities," the authors wrote in the study. "In a previous meta-analysis, we found the evidence was weak, and in this paper with an expanded dataset, we again find little evidence supporting the sex-specific adaptation hypothesis."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | cottonbro studio

The researchers behind the study proposed that evolution and natural selection did not play a significant role in shaping the enhanced navigational capabilities of men, and instead attributed these skills to various non-evolutionary biological factors. The authors of the study decided that further investigation into this hypothesis is necessary before drawing definitive conclusions regarding the differences between male and female navigational proficiency.

"The data that we had to work with are limited in terms of the small number of species for which both home range sex differences and spatial navigation were measured," the authors wrote. "It is possible with more, higher quality data, a significant positive relationship will appear. To date, the observations, such as they are, do not favor the sex-specific adaptation hypothesis over the alternatives we have described. We conclude that non-adaptive explanations for sex differences in navigation in humans and other animals should be taken more seriously."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Andrea Piacquadio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Andrea Piacquadio

Scientists have conducted various studies on this topic in the past to determine why men appear to be more skilled at finding their way compared to women. According to BBC, a 2018 study published in Current Biology discovered that "men were overwhelmingly better at navigating than women when asked to play a simple game that involved participants controlling the direction of a boat." The study concluded that the results of the game had a lot more to do with gender discrimination and unequal opportunities around the world than a man winning over women using their natural navigational abilities.

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