Mountain Rescue Magazine Winter 2021

Having an appreciation of that may be useful for trainers, assessors and candidates. This summary of the research, from Psychology Today , may be of interest: It is worth considering that our traditional two dimensional cartography and symbology have been developed by men (probably unintentionally), for men. One study compared men and women using 2D and 3D maps to navigate through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. Men were better than women using the 2D map but with a 3D map women found their way faster and with fewer mistakes than the men. The women also remembered more landmarks and in greater detail. It appears that women rely more than men on observation and remembering landmarks, while men rely more than women on spatial information such as time, distance and direction. This may for instance influence relocation strategies. Another study suggested women tended to return to an observed landmark for positive confirmation of their location whilst men are more likely to attempt to calculate their location on the spot — not dissimilar to the ‘men not wanting to ask for directions’ scenario. Both methods can be successful and in truth most of us use a mix of both. What we can take from all this is the importance of understanding that progressions with environment and navigation features are just as important as developing navigation and map reading skills, combining all three provides the most powerful learning process. Past opportunities to explore outdoors and develop spatial awareness may influence a novice navigator’s confidence and ability to acquire navigation skill. In a teaching role we may be able to observe and understand differences in navigation processes between men and women. Decision making is a key element of navigation which is why confidence plays such a key role and needs to be developed and nurtured. It is surprising how often the scientific research talks about navigational confidence. ✪

wayfinding and navigational strategies. A poor decision when navigating will have an immediate consequence both psychologically and physically. It also uses other senses: hearing, balance and feeling and different aspects of visual senses. Map reading as a starting point to learn to navigate does not instill a sense of exploration or adventure, yet it is often where most of our teaching begins. We need prior terrain experience to interpret and visualise the map. This is key to understanding how we learn and develop confidence with navigation. All that would suggest that developing both map knowledge and navigation skills simultaneously is likely to be more effective at building our cognitive map, what orienteers refer to as a map walk. Ideally on a large scale map 1:10,000 with lots of recognisable features marked. Using a 1:50,000 is likely to be a long walk passing lots of memorable information on the ground which is not on the map. It rather undermines confidence. As Matthew Syed says in Black Box Thinking: ‘Enlightened training environments maximise the quantity and quality of feedback, thus increasing the speed of adaptation’. This is a proposed model that might illustrate these inter- relationships. COMPONENTS OF NAVIGATION It is also very clear that we cannot teach navigation unless every individual has a map, one between two or three is a waste of time and opportunity. This also raises questions about the value of online navigation learning, something that has come up a lot during lockdown. Object rotation (map setting) is a specific cognitive task closely associated with map reading. Evidence shows that people are quicker with their navigation if the map is set. Map setting is best learned outside as part of our map walk practical navigation. With an unset map, the further the direction required is from north (assuming that being the top of the map), the longer it takes to make a decision. It is also easier to mentally rotate text than symbols. Conversely, the brain wants to conserve energy so it would prefer to read text rather than rotate symbols. Another good reason for using an orienteering map for teaching novices as there is no writing across the map. British Orienteering and the National Navigation Award Scheme appear to broadly use a teaching methodology which aligns with some of these themes. But based on the experience of teaching novices rather than the science and they appear to be increasingly successful with it. A question that often comes up when discussing the cognitive processes of navigation is around the differences between men and women. Evidence suggests both are capable of navigating effectively but may go about it differently.

In other words we have to engage with the outdoor environment throughout our lives in order to develop and maintain our spatial awareness and the cognitive map. Much of this understanding is coming from Alzheimer’s research. London cabbies usually spend around four years memorising the A-Z map of central London — they call it ‘the knowledge’. They can go between any two places in any direction and are able to work out alternatives if there are hold-ups. They don’t use GPS. MRI scans of their brains as they learn the knowledge show that they develop a larger than usual hippocampus. Commonly the terms ‘navigation’ and ‘map reading’ seem to be interchangeable. My perspective on this is that ‘map reading’ is learning symbols, scale, grid references, on the map route planning and compass skills — essentially a static two-dimensional information-gathering process. They enable the communication of accurate information. Learning these elements in the classroom, there are no immediate consequences to an error. A map is a tool of navigation along with the compass, altimeter, GPS etc. ‘Navigation’ is a three-dimensional, on the move, decision-making process involving






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