Our Northwest

Poll: Men and women navigate differently

Wednesday, August 20, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

Today’s PEMCO Poll revealed some interesting contrasts about people’s sense of direction, or lack thereof.
   Our poll of 1,200 Washington and Oregon residents shows that men rate themselves higher than women do for finding their way around: 36% of guys said they’re “exceptionally good,” while just 20% of women felt equally confident about themselves.
   Northwest men also fit an old stereotype. While 77% of women willingly ask for directions, just 65% of men will ask for help. “Dan, I think we’re lost. Ask somebody for directions.”  “No, I’ll figure it out myself!”
   I’m convinced we’re either born with a good sense of direction, or finding our way around will always be a struggle. For example, my parents were polar opposites. Dad could navigate anywhere, whether in his hometown or in strange lands. Poor mom was so directionally challenged that sometimes it flustered her to tears.
   I’m thankful that I got dad’s sense of direction. I remember being disoriented just once, when I visited my wife’s hometown for the first time. Yakima threw me off because it’s relatively flat and short on landmarks. For a while the only way I could get my bearings was to look for the TV towers on Ahtanum Ridge, which I knew was due south of town.
   Of course, navigating is easy nowadays for drivers who use GPS. (By the way, our poll shows 47% of drivers think GPS is less distracting than talking or texting on a cell phone while behind the wheel.) I’m not sure if driver’s-ed courses teach students anymore how to navigate based on odd/even, higher/lower addresses. For baby boomers, that was a learned skill that could offset someone’s poor sense of direction.
   Speaking of age, PEMCO’s poll also showed that 78% of drivers age 55+ willingly ask for directions. With drivers 35 and under, just 66% will ask for help. I immediately thought, “Hmmm, perhaps with age comes humility.” To which my youthful work colleague said, “No, it’s because older drivers don’t use GPS or Google maps!”
   We also learned that men and women prefer to give and receive directions differently. Guys like to use street names. Women are more likely to prefer landmarks, such as, “Turn right at Starbucks. If you pass the Safeway, you’ve gone too far.”
   Or perhaps it’s more like, “Pull into this Starbucks, and if you’re too proud, I’ll ask the barista for directions!”

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