Making men better navigators

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REMINDING men about the stereotype that they are better navigators than women can improve their performance, according to new research.

The findings by Dr Harriet Rosenthal, of Durham University’s psychology department, have been published in the US and follow on from experiments which involved 40 men and 40 women who are undergraduates playing video games.

It found that on average, while men are better than woman at using geometric cues to navigate, the genders are equally good at finding a destination when using landmarks.

However, reinforcing the suggestion men are better navigators than women made men better at both.

Dr Rosenthal said: “Even when no actual gender differences exist, this general stereotype can improve performance.

“Scientists have long known that stereotypes can change the way people handle tasks.

“Being reminded of a negative stereotype – say girls are bad at maths – can make the stereotyped group choke under pressure, a process called stereotype threat.

“On the flip side, stereolift occurs when a person is reminded that their demographic is supposed to be good at a particular task.”