May 23 (UPI) -- Men and women use different navigation strategies, new research shows. Men are more likely to take short cuts, while women prefer well-known routes.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, had two groups of participants familiarize themselves with a simulated maze on a computer, including landmarks that could help them navigate their way through. The groups of men and women were then asked to make their way through the maze.
The results -- published in the journal Memory & Cognition -- showed men tended to take more short cuts and reach their destination faster, while women took the path they were most familiar with.
"Overall, our research indicates that the sex difference in navigation efficiency is large, and is partly related to navigation strategy," researcher Alexander Boone said in a news release. "Men were significantly more efficient than women, even after controlling for the effects of strategy."
Though there were women participants who were just as efficient at navigating as the best male performers, on average women took longer to reach their destinations. Women were also more likely to wander.
Wandering suggests a participant was unable to familiarize themselves with the landmarks needed to guide efficient navigation. The inefficiency of female navigators could be explained by an inability to learn the layout of the virtual landscape in the allotted time.
The discrepancy could point to a difference in the ways men and women acquire spatial knowledge.
"It is also possible that the sex difference in efficiency is due in part to facility with the interface or navigation in virtual environments, as men tend to spend more time playing video games," Boone said.