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New study debunks the myth of men being naturally better at navigating than women

The study explores the long-held stereotype that men are better than women in navigation and finds it to be false.

New study debunks the myth of men being naturally better at navigating than women
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Andrea Piacquadio; Royal Study Open Science

For years, people in society have tried to justify the privileges men enjoy by coming up with bogus excuses. To prove the inequality to be an order of nature rather than an attempt to keep one group down, theories have been proposed which imply that men are just better. One among them has been that men are naturally more proficient in navigating. Such misconceptions impact women, making them feel doubtful of their abilities. Now, a study has come forward, proving that it is indeed a misconception. The study has been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, proving that there is no 'natural evolution' at play but rather societal limitations that should be blamed for women not feeling confident about navigation.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Leah Kelley
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Leah Kelley

The stereotype was taken up by researchers across multiple institutions and put to the test. They analyzed 21 species, including humans, Asian small-clawed otters, chimpanzees, the diablito poison frog, the European rabbit, the rat, and more. The authors explain in their introduction that one of the biggest reasons men are considered to be naturally better at the pursuit of navigation is because as per the common understanding, the sex-specific adaptation hypothesis declares that this "male advantage evolved as an adaptive response to sex differences in home range size."

As per the information provided by Movement Ecology, "home range" is represented by the exchange between animals and the environment. Also, its size is the result of movement caused by habitat preference, with other external factors, biotic interactions, and intrinsic factors related to people's state and characteristics. The thought process in play was that women had smaller home range sizes compared to men, directly affecting their navigational abilities. As decades crept in, it became a part of the gender's evolutionary response and therefore, men became more proficient in navigation while women failed to develop in that respect.

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

In their study, the scholars conducted a comparison between the two sexes across species in terms of "home range size and spatial ability." They wanted to see whether their "home range size" had any real bearing on how they navigated through any space. After monitoring the two groups, they concluded that there was little proof of this so-called impact. In their opinion, there was no correlation between sex and the way species navigated. In previous meta-analyses, the researchers have found the evidence was weak and in this paper, with an expanded dataset, they have again found "little evidence supporting the sex-specific adaptation hypothesis."

Researchers believe that it is not because of natural selection and evolution that men gain expertise in navigation over women. The answer lies in experience. Men are allowed to deal with more situations where they have to utilize the skill of navigation and with practice, they become better. The scholars involved in the study hope for more studies in the area to explore the hypothesis in detail.

In a study published on Springer Link, the researchers concluded that navigational advantage lay with men mainly because of the strategies they applied during the process. They also rejected the notion of evolutionary advantage. "Men having a predisposition to take shortcuts is multifaceted," Alexander Boone, lead author of the study, says. "One thing is their risk-taking behavior, but I also think video games play into it. A lot of male participants said they played video games and even the type of video games they played influenced their navigation," per the US News.

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