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/ Sense of Direction

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mypyrex - on 09 Mar 2018

We went to Bodnant Gardens today and, having walked in roughly the same direction for about half an hour, decided it was time to head back to the car park. I saw a path "doubling back" in the right general direction but the Mrs said "Don't we need to go that way?" pointing to a path which was effectively a continuation of and going in the same direction as our outward path.

By her own admission(bless her) the Mrs is not very good at navigation and really has little sense of direction. I sometimes wonder if it's an instinctive thing whether one has a fairly good idea of which direction to go in or if it's a skill that you pick up sub consciously by indulging in things like walking.

Post edited at 20:40
2
john arran - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

My wife has an excellent and extremely reliable sense of direction, which is great.

The only problem is that she's invariable precisely 180 degrees out!

alx on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

I had heard dogs prefer to defecate facing along a north-south axis.

mypyrex - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to john arran:

 

> The only problem is that she's invariable precisely 180 degrees out!

That seemed to be the problem today! Still, could be worse, could be 360 out!

Given that we'd been following a stream I tried explaining that a good indication of our relative direction was whether we were going up stream or down stream

 

Post edited at 20:52
Dave the Rave on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

> That seemed to be the problem today! Still, could be worse, could be 360 out!

> Given that we'd been following a stream I tried explaining that a good indication of our relative direction was whether we were going up stream or down stream

This doesn’t work in limestone country when the stream disappears. There are usually beautiful old trees and a hole. A black hole in the ground with beautiful old trees. You don’t want to go that way in limestone country on your own following a river that disappears into a hole in the ground surrounded by BEAUTIFUL OLD TREES! YOU COULD END UP IN AN HOLE WITH AN OWL SIRROUNDED BY BEAUTIFUL OLD TREES! In the dark!

Ben Sharp - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

I've read in navigation books before that believing you have a sense of direction is a common falacy and it's just a skill like all others which you can learn. I imagine that a large amount of people getting lost are those that have followed their nose instead of taking a step back and methodically working out where they have been, where they are and how to get where they're 're going. Of course if you're naturally observant it's going to help and the more time you spend in an environment the more you recognise it's individualities. For example you might notice a perculiarly shaped birch tree as you're walking past it where as someone whose grown up in the city might just see a load of trees, which isn't as useful for recognising where you've been.

 

Post edited at 08:03
Dax H - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

I know its a skill that can be lost. I used to have a brilliant sense of direction and traveled all over the country with a basic map in my van and always got where I was going. But 18 years ago I started using a satnav to find remote site's and I have now lost my sense completely. (still okay walking though it's just driving I lost) 

Rigid Raider - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

You'll realise how good a sense of direction you do have when you go to the southern hemisphrere and find out how much you have unconsciously used the sun as a cue all your life,

 

john arran - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Rigid Raider:

When I was younger I lived in Boulder for a good while. The combination of a) the sun being always out, and b) the mountains always being visible to the west, meant that not only did I instinctively always know which direction I was facing, but also knew roughly what time it was too.

Now in Ariège the sun is often out, which helps with direction, but the mountains are to the South, which still seems like a counter-intuitive place to put them!

Big Ger - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

I normally have a reasonable / good sense of direction. When I moved to Aus I experienced a real nasty "compass spin" and couldn't find my way to the toilet without a map. It lasted a couple of weeks.

mypyrex - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to Big Ger:

What state were your bowels in?

GridNorth - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

A "sense of direction" implies that if a person was spun around and led blindfolded into a darkened room they would know still know which way North was.  I suspect hardly anyone would get it right in every instance so in that respect I don't believe in an instinctive sense of direction.  It's probably more to do with experience and picking up clues from your surroundings even if those clues are subliminal.

Al

Blue Straggler - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Do you just want someone to tell you that you are very very skilled due to having done lots of walking?

13
Timmd on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to GridNorth:

Yes, people I know who seem to be good at finding their way who might be said to have a sense of direction, seem to do a lot of looking around them too.

My Dad 'has a sense of direction', and he once led my Mum and brother on a walk which went around in a circle by mistake. Which made a nice story for my Mum. ;-)

Post edited at 14:40
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jon on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to john arran:

> My wife has an excellent and extremely reliable sense of direction, which is great.

> The only problem is that she's invariable precisely 180 degrees out!


She's got reversed polarity, John. Proximity to magnets. Mobile phones...

Rog Wilko on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to jon:

You're probably right, Jon. I've heard people say when your compass goes like that giving it a good hard slap can swing it back to normal, but I'm not sure Anne would appreciate that treatment.

Rog Wilko on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

In my experience people who claim to have a good sense of direction frequently get lost. As others have said above, a GSOD almost certainly amounts to having a tendency to look at things and remember them for later, in particular, significant changes in direction of travel. It also helps a lot if you have in your mind (and retain) a good 3D image of the area you're walking through (incidentally, obtained best by pre-study of the map, and something much harder to obtain by looking at a GPS map). This helps you pick up almost without thinking and even in poor visibility things like the ground sloping the "wrong" way indicating you've wandered off the wrong side of a ridge.

wercat on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Ben Sharp:

Actually I think it is something that some people can do intuitively and others not.  I've seen precisely the situation described in the OP arise a few times in the mountaineering club I was in where people just got up from lunch and followed their noses 180 degrees "out of phase".  Some had a lifetime of experience too.

 

intuitively does not mean unscientifically, it means that a lot of it is delegated to the rather more powerful subconscious simply doing what has to be done by the conscious mind by rote, which would either be an intrinsic trait or else a habit to be learned and reinforced by practice.

Failure to navigate at all seems to be a common problem

wercat on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Rog Wilko:

indeed I think that is true - anyone claiming GSOD is suspect as a good navigator, intuitive or not will be testing, worrying and validating, not boasting.

BTW wind can be a useful indicator as long as you check it is not rapidly changing by making other references when available.

Navigation is the Sum of All skills

Timmd on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to wercat:

> Actually I think it is something that some people can do intuitively and others not.  I've seen precisely the situation described in the OP arise a few times in the mountaineering club I was in where people just got up from lunch and followed their noses 180 degrees "out of phase".  Some had a lifetime of experience too.

> intuitively does not mean unscientifically, it means that a lot of it is delegated to the rather more powerful subconscious simply doing what has to be done by the conscious mind by rote, which would either be an intrinsic trait or else a habit to be learned and reinforced by practice.

> Failure to navigate at all seems to be a common problem

A brother will get up and set off in the opposite direction to the right one, while I'll feel like I 'just happen to known' which the right direction is. I don't have much practice at navigating yet, and think I will always be wary of getting lost. I like that Sheffield is hilly because they help towards making sure you're going in the right general direction. One can circle about in a narrowing way until something is found.

Post edited at 15:17
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Roadrunner6 - on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to wercat:

I don't know, of course its largely just sub consciously taking in various clues but its also true males probably evolved to have a sense of direction. For 10,000 of years men were generally the hunters and women gathered, and so their brains will have evolved for those different roles.

Interesting article here: https://www.economist.com/node/16004344

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151207081824.htm  

Timmd on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Roadrunner6:

Women are better at remembering where food types are in a supermarket apparently. I'm sometimes embarrassed by the accuracy of the term 'Having a man's look' for not looking properly. It makes me always look again, ever since my Mum came home from teaching and mentioned another teacher using it that day.  

Post edited at 15:21
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Rigid Raider - on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

I've heard it said that men have better sense or direction and spatial awareness because they are more territorial than women and therefore more alert to their surroundings. 

Actually most people have a certain innate sense of direction when they are moving around British or even European towns and villages because most towns developed along similar lines - either linear or cruciform where roads crossed or even clustered alongside water, which forms an excellent reference point. The church is usually near the centre and in towns that got railways, the station is usually near the centre except on the high-level Settle-Carlisle where terrain meant stations are mostly outside town, up the hill. We grow up navigating around these settlements so the usual pattern is imprinted in our mental maps.

wercat on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to Timmd:

women have frightening memory and retrieval capabilities generally.  Mind you they are quite capable of producing information after it would have been useful or at inappropriate times, as a weapon.

Timmd on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to wercat:

> women have frightening memory and retrieval capabilities generally.  Mind you they are quite capable of producing information after it would have been useful or at inappropriate times, as a weapon.

I'm the same, my memory goes back decades for things people have done and said. It's been commented on. My oldest niece and a cousin have inherited the same trait from wherever it comes from.

Post edited at 18:19
Blue Straggler - on 11 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

6/10 for trolling btw. Two replies let you down

2
tom_in_edinburgh - on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to Roadrunner6:

I used to think my wife was rubbish at navigating because she's not much interested in maps. 

But what I Iearned over time is she is totally awesome at remembering absolutely every detail about the route she's walked so she *never* gets lost.  She may not know where she is on the map but for certain she'll know the way back to the car/hotel.   Often she's more interested in just walking about exploring than following a specific route and actually that makes a lot of sense if your navigational strategy is to build up an internal map and then use that.

mypyrex - on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to Dax H:

>  But 18 years ago I started using a satnav to find remote site's and I have now lost my sense completely.

I rarely use satnsv. I find by the time I've faffed around setting it up I've worked out a route using a road atlas. I went to Luton airport with a friend once and he was using satnav. He got well and truly lost.

NottsRich on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to GridNorth:

> A "sense of direction" implies that if a person was spun around and led blindfolded into a darkened room they would know still know which way North was.  ...  It's probably more to do with experience and picking up clues from your surroundings even if those clues are subliminal.

If Bees can do it, perhaps some people can too?

https://phys.org/news/2017-10-bees-home.html

 

 

nniff - on 12 Mar 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Many years ago, I was out in the wilds of the Canadian prairies - miles and miles of nothing, just undulating grassland.  I looked at the map, looked at the compass and they quite clearly told me to go in a direction that I knew for certain was wrong.  I explained the problem to someone else, got them to work it out and off we headed in the 'wrong' direction.  Every sense was screaming at me that this was not right at all, until we crested a small rise and, much like a spinning head after too much to drink, the world span on its axis and everything straightened up. 

I was absolutely fine after that, but i would really have struggled to head in the 'wrong' direction on my own - a very, very strange feeling.  Not like a little bit of confusion or uncertainty, but an absolute conviction that we were heading in the wrong direction, despite having navigated to the starting point in the first place.


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