Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Real Men Don’t Use Maps

NYC subway map source.

Honestly, I had no idea that straight men even used maps!

According to a recent study, gay men and straight women have similar navigational strategies, which are different from those employed by straight men. Women rely on using landmarks to find their way around, whereas straight men rely on a compass, directions and distances. However, this study also revealed that gay men use the same strategies as straight men use.


“Gay men adopt male and female strategies. Therefore their brains are a sexual mosaic,” explains Qazi Rahman, a psychobiologist who led the study at the University of East London, UK. “It’s not simply that lesbians have men’s brains and gay men have women’s brains.”

The new study might help researchers understand how cognitive differences and sexual orientation develop in the womb, he says.

This is yet another piece of evidence suggesting that sexual orientation occurs prior to birth, during fetal development in the womb, that it is neither a “weakness of character” nor an “improper life choice”.

New Scientist story.

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    October 24, 2006

    Honestly, I had no idea that straight men even used maps!

    Please don’t tell anyone. Our reputations as Manly Men rely on the myth that we are able to navigate solely due to being Male.

    In unfamiliar areas (and sometimes in familiar areas) I rely heavily on maps precisely because I find verbal directions confusing. As to a compass … well, I don’t use a compass unless I’m hiking in an unfamilar area. Even then, as long as I have a map and a few identifiable landmarks, I tend not pay much attention to the compass.

  2. #2 Dave S.
    October 24, 2006

    Nothing better than a well marked map for finding ones way around an unfamiliar city. The infuriating part is when the cross-streets aren’t clearly marked. As for a compass, that’s only really useful in a rural setting, where trails and other landmarks are fewer and further between.

  3. #3 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    October 24, 2006

    Honestly, I had no idea that straight men even used maps!

    Of course we do. It’s stopping for directions that is beyond the pale.

  4. #4 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    October 24, 2006

    “Gay men adopt male and female strategies. Therefore their brains are a sexual mosaic,” explains Qazi Rahman, a psychobiologist who led the study at the University of East London, UK.

    Gosh, do you think it is possible that Dr. Rahman is overinterpreting his data just a skosh?

  5. #5 CCP
    October 24, 2006

    I like the way you think, Mustafa.
    No man (or woman) of any proclivity needs to ask for directions if he (or she) has a decent map.

  6. #6 guthrie
    October 24, 2006

    I use map, compass, and landmarks as and when necessary, and am heterosexual. Mustapha has it right about stopping for directions; its far better to find your way somewhere by yourself.

  7. #7 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    October 25, 2006

    The only problem arises when the map you are using is inaccurate. But at such times a ready excuse is available: the map was inaccurate!

  8. #8 David Harmon
    October 28, 2006

    Interesting… my mom has trouble reading almost any map, even a simple (to me) corridor chart on a sign. (She’s fine with MapQuest directions and such, which I dislike!) But she loves her new GPS navigator with its voice instructions, and refers to it as “she” (the voice is female). My stepfather sardonically dubbed it “She Who Must Be Obeyed”, but he’s an engineer, so he likes it for different reasons. ;-) He’s also much more able to deal with the modal parts of its interface, and more willing to “lean on it”, such as by “excluding” particular roads. (Which confuses it mightily, but that’s another topic.)

    At the computer, Mom consistently has trouble with modality (she can’t “scan the screen” to see what’s going on), and compound gestures, like selecting icons (and then doing something with them). She did much better back in command-line days, because she could write down specific “incantations” for particular tasks.

  9. #9 Xris (Flatbush Gardener)
    November 1, 2006

    My first encounter with a GPS unit a couple months back reminded me of the saying “The map is not the territory.” It was a talking, automative GPS unit. (Do they all speak in female voices? Why should they?) I was driving the car through our neighborhood, which I know well. A destination address had been programmed into the device, and it was instructing me to turn at this light, corner, etc.

    However, the group in the car was indecisive as to where we wanted to go next. Noone told the unit. As we ignored instruction after instruction, it seemed to get totally confused, even frustrated, and commanded: At the next opportunity, make a U-turn!

    For the record: male, gay, loves maps.