Original Shape Orientation Skills – wissenschaft.de

The environment in which people grow up appears to shape the evolution of their orientation skills, a study shows: People who spent their childhoods in more rural areas had, on average, better mobility skills than those who come from cities—particularly those who had network-shaped ones. road networks. Accordingly, the researchers explained that greater structural complexity appears to have a positive effect on the development of orientation skills.

As is well known, how and where people live can have a powerful influence: numerous studies show that the cultural and geographical characteristics of the current environment influence people’s cognitive abilities and psychological well-being. On the other hand, little research has been done on how past conditions affect people – the environment in which people spent their childhood and adolescence. An international research team led by Hugo Spiers of University College London has now dedicated itself to the aspect of people’s ability to find their own spatial way.

Their study findings are based on an evaluation of data from the Citizen Science Research Neuroscience Project, which is based on the “Sea Hero Quest” mobile game. Participants’ navigation skills are required for route-finding missions: they must navigate the vehicle through different virtual environments in order to find the checkpoints displayed on the map. Previous research has shown that a person’s real-world navigation skills are reflected in their performance in this game.

Comically generated data

For the current study, Spiers and colleagues evaluated the results of nearly 400,000 participants from 38 countries who played “Sea Hero Quest,” or a modified form. For the citizen science project, participants also provided various personal information – including where they grew up. In this way, the scientists were also able to record the structural complexity of the pathway system in their homeland. A scientific tool has been used that provides access to the topology of the road network around the world.

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As the researchers reported, evaluations of the data showed that participants’ childhood and adolescence environment affected their performance in the game, regardless of their current place of residence. Basically, they show their best performance in virtual gaming environments that are similar to those in their home country. However, the bottom line is that people who grew up in cities have, on average, worse navigation skills than those who originally grew up in rural or suburban areas. The latter can find its way relatively well in game levels that have a rather complex environment. “We’ve shown that growth outside of cities looks good for developing navigation skills,” Spires says.

The degree of “chaos” seems formative

Additional study results show that this is clearly related to the complexity of the environment involved. The researchers compared the degree of ‘chaos’ – the so-called entropy of road network systems – in the study participants’ home towns. It turned out that people whose cities had lower entropy, that is, relatively ordered lattice structures, were less able to solve orientation tasks. Distinctive examples of such urban structures can be found in the United States – for example in Chicago or New York. By contrast, people who grew up in “organically” organized cities – with less organized street layouts, such as Prague – performed slightly worse than people who came from rural areas.

Comparison with the age factor shows the strength of the connection created. Because spatial orientation skills begin to wane relatively early in adulthood, Spiers says, “We found that people who grew up in areas with an organized road network had similar navigation skills to people over five years old in rural areas,” says Scientist. .

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The researchers say the connectivity may have something to do with a lasting training effect: “If you grow up in a place with a more complex road or track system, it could improve your navigation skills, as you have to monitor direction relatively intensively,” says co-author Antoine Cotro of the University of Leon: “Because you have to take turns in different angles and you also have to remember more streets and landmarks.” However, according to the researchers, more research should now shed more light on how influences develop in childhood.

Source: University College London, article: Nature, doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04486-7

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