Gender differences in wayfinding in virtual environments with global or local landmarks

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Journal Article
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2012, 32 (2), pp. 89 - 96
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This study assesses gender differences in wayfinding in environments with global or local landmarks by analyzing both overall and fine-grained measures of performance. Both female and male participants were required to locate targets in grid-like virtual environments with local or global landmarks. Interestingly, the results of the two overall measures did not converge: although females spent more time than males in locating targets, both genders were generally equivalent in terms of corrected travel path. Fine-grained measures account for different aspects of wayfinding behavior and provide additional information that explains the divergence in overall measures; females spent less time traveling away from the target location, a higher proportion of time not traversing, and made more rotations when stopping than males did. Rather than unequivocally supporting male superiority in wayfinding tasks, both the overall and fine-grained measures partially indicate that males and females are differentially superior when using global and local landmark information, respectively. To summarize, males moved faster than females but did not necessarily navigate the spatial surroundings more efficiently. Each gender showed different strengths related to wayfinding; these differences require the application of both overall and fine-grained measures for accurate assessment. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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