Navigation… His and Hers

Well, everybody is doing it, so I may as well too.. time to get on the weblog bandwagon […]

Well, everybody is doing it, so I may as well too.. time to get on the weblog bandwagon and put my thoughts down on the web for all and sundry’s approval/dismay. is a truly amazing site… I can’t resist.

Eleganthack is supposed to be devoted to Information architecture (as opposed to devoted to my resume, as it is right now)
So, to start the dialog…

A while back there was an article on a study that showed men and women navigate cities differently. Men tended to use maps to form a cognitive model of a space, then expresses directions in this way “go south 1 mile,
then turn west for 2 miles…” Women however used landmarks for wayfinding “turn left at the red house, then right at the Denny’s..”

I never saw the original study, and I’d be curious to read it..

That said, I wonder how this can apply to wayfinding in information spaces. How, as web designers, can we create landmarks to assist navigation? How can we make our structures transparent so they can be used to navigate? Should
be design differently based on our understanding of our audience’s preferred navigation method?

A friend and I were discussing this over lunch, and we thought that breadcrumbs actually help both styles of wayfinding…

(yahoo, natch)

this both conveys a hierarchy and provides language that is vivid enough to act as a landmark.

Thoughts? Are there any studies/papers on this topic?


Add Yours
  1. 1

    April 2000 Volume 3 Number 4 pp 404 – 408

    Brain activation during human navigation: gender-different neural networks as substrate of performance (free registration)

    Georg Grön1, Arthur P. Wunderlich2, Manfred Spitzer1, Reinhard Tomczak2 & Matthias W. Riepe3

    1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Ulm, Leimgrubenweg 12–14, D-89075 Ulm, Germany
    2. Department of Radiology, University of Ulm, Steinhövelstr.9, D-89075 Ulm, Germany
    3. Department of Neurology, University of Ulm, Steinhövelstr. 1, D-89075 Ulm, Germany
    Correspondence should be addressed to M W Riepe. e-mail:


    Visuospatial navigation in animals and human subjects is generally studied using maze exploration. We used functional MRI to observe brain activation in male and female subjects as they searched for the way out of a complex, three-dimensional, virtual-reality maze. Navigation activated the medial occipital gyri, lateral and medial parietal regions, posterior cingulate and parahippocampal gyri as well as the right hippocampus proper. Gender-specific group analysis revealed distinct activation of the left hippocampus in males, whereas females consistently recruited right parietal and right prefrontal cortex. Thus we demonstrate a neural substrate of well established human gender differences in spatial-cognition performance.

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