I have gotten lost many times while driving. I don’t use a GPS and I don’t have a smartphone so if I need directions I have to find a wi-fi hotspot, get out the road atlas or swallow my pride and ask someone. Fortunately for me as a guy I have one thing going for me and that is that men are better at navigating than women. Apparently it is scientific proof and the results came from a most unlikely source: a dementia test.

A dementia test?

A computer game called Sea Hero Quest has been used as an experiment to test for dementia. In the nautical adventure the users sails around in an attempt by a son to save his old sailor father’s lost memories by captaining a boat and scoring your navigational abilities. The game became one of the largest dementia experiments ever since becoming lost or disoriented is one of the first signs of the disease. In the background the user’s sense of direction and navigational ability were tracked. While the boat is stationary the user is also able to look around and what they concentrate on to get bearings is recorded as well. Not everyone was happy with the results.


Some of the results should not be too difficult to imagine. People in wealthier countries tend to have a better sense of direction and the world’s best navigators come from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The people of Viking descent still have it! One other tidbit discovered is that a person’s sense of direction begins to decline after their teenage years. It also showed that men had a better sense of direction than women did and that the two sexes approached problem solving differently.

The study has produced an outcry from many researchers claiming discrimination and unequal opportunity around the globe. The results showed that in countries with smaller gaps in education and opportunity the difference in the sense of direction was not that great. For users in less developed countries the difference was quite noticeable.

Research through a game?

The game is available as both a mobile version and with VR. The game was developed by Glitchers with help from Alzheimer’s Research UK and hosted by Deutsche Telekom. They hoped to gather data from 10,000 users but over 4 million people wound up downloading the game. Two minutes of gameplay can contribute the equivalent of five hours of lab experimentation. The VR component has been well received by the medical community as it has shown potential to help treat anxiety, stress and depression while raising awareness of other diseases. A sequel is in the works.

So guys, the next time you are out with your significant other and they ask you if you know where you are going you can say that you have a better sense of direction so you do and you have the proof of it. Just remember you will eat those words when you do get lost and you will never hear the end of it.

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