London: Men might be good at reading maps, but when it comes to recalling routes, it’s the ladies who walk away with crown, according to a new study.
According to the research, women can be better navigators than men if they have visited a place before.
And according to researchers, it all goes back to the Pleistocene epoch — which began more than 2.5m years ago — when humans’ route finding skills were honed differently for the distinct tasks of hunters and gatherers.
To test their hypothesis, the scientists used the population of a Mexican village.
Boffins “fitted with GPS (global positioning system) navigation systems and heart-rate monitors followed villagers to see how many mushrooms they gathered and how long it took. The GPS system mapped all the routes taken, and the heart-rate monitors detailed the energy expended.
“The results, which are to be published in Evolution and Human Behaviour, the scientific journal, show that while there was no significant difference in the amount of mushrooms collected, there was a marked contrast in the effort expended.
“The men climbed higher, travelled further and used 70 percent more energy than the women, who made more stops but seemed to know where they were going,” reports a news daily.
According to the scientists, the study’s finding reinforces the idea that male and female navigational skills have evolved differently over time.
The male strategy is the most useful for hunting down prey – a practice which has led modern man to navigate by creating a mental map, then imagining their positions on it.
Women, however, are more likely to recall their routes by using landmarks if they are retracing paths to the most productive patches of plants.
Luis Pacheco-Cobos, who led the research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, said: “These findings show that women perform better and more readily adopt search strategies appropriate to a gathering lifestyle than men.”