Growing Up Wayfinding (04-13-22)

Coutrot and colleagues set out to learn more about how where we grew up influences our sense of direction; what they’ve learned may help explain previously baffling programming research findings, for example.  The Coutrot-lead team report that “how the environment in which one grew up affects later cognitive abilities remains poorly understood. Here we used a cognitive task embedded in a video game to measure non-verbal spatial navigation ability in 397,162 people from 38 countries across the world. Overall, we found that people who grew up outside cities were better at navigation [had a better sense of direction]. More specifically, people were better at navigating in environments that were topologically similar to where they grew up. Growing up in cities with a low street network entropy (for example, Chicago [less heterogeneous, more gridlike, for example]) led to better results at video game levels with a regular layout, whereas growing up outside cities or in cities with a higher street network entropy [more heterogeneous, streets not meeting at right angles frequently, for instance] (for example, Prague) led to better results at more entropic video game levels.” So, the design/form of where you grow up influences your sense of direction/wayfinding ability for the rest of your life.

A.Coutrot, E. Manley, S. Goodroe, C, Gahnstrom, G. Filomena, D. Yesiltepe, R. Dalton, J. Wiener, C. Holscher, M. Hornberger, and H. Spiers.  2022. “Entropy of City Street Networks Linked to Future Spatial Navigation Ability.”  Nature, vol. 604, pp. 104-110,