Coutrot lead a large research team which probed how good people from various parts of the world are at wayfinding. What they learned may help people who design projects internationally understand differences in wayfinding ability and wayfinding aids needed in different areas. The scientists determined via a mobile video game that tested the spatial navigation ability of over 550,000 people from 57 countries that “Spatial ability of the population of a country is correlated with economic wealth [more wealth, more ability].” More on the mobile video game used by the researchers: “The game involves navigating a boat in search of sea creatures in order to photograph them. . . . It features two main tasks: wayfinding and path integration. . . . The wayfinding task requires quite elaborate processing, including interpretation of a map, planning a multi-stop route, memory of the route, monitoring progress along the route and updating of route plan, and transformation of birds-eye perspective to an egocentric perspective needed for navigation. . . . In path-integration levels, participants navigate along a river with bends to find a flare gun and then choose which three directions is the correct direction back to the starting point along the Euclidean space.” Individuals from North America, Australia, New Zealand and Nordic countries (Finland, Denmark, and Norway) have the best spatial navigation abilities. Via the methodology used, video game playing ability was eliminated as an explanation for the results found.
Antoine Coutrot, Ricardo Silva, Ed Manley, Will de Cothi, Saber Sami, Veronique Bohbot, Jan Wiener, Chrisoph Holscher, Ruth Dalton, Michael Hornberger, and Hugo Spiers. “Global Determinants of Navigation Ability.” Current Biology, in press, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.009