It’s the connectivity, stupid:
Researchers found that many of the connections in a typical male brain run between the front and the back of the same side of the brain, whereas in women the connections are more likely to run from side to side between the left and right hemispheres of the brain…
A special brain-scanning technique called diffusion tensor imaging, which can measure the flow of water along a nerve pathway, established the level of connectivity between nearly 100 regions of the brain, creating a neural map of the brain called the “connectome”, Professor Verma said…
Men tend to outperform women involving spatial tasks and motor skills – such as map reading – while women tend to better in memory tests, such as remembering words and faces, and social cognition tests, which try to measure empathy and “emotional intelligence”.
Anyone who doesn’t think men and women are different in the way their brains operate hasn’t been paying attention. And anyone who thinks the differences are entirely due to nurture and not nature also hasn’t been paying attention (or has been paying attention but is in denial for political reasons). I’m pretty sure, however, that articles such as the one I linked to are oversimplifications and overgeneralizations, and that there’s a fair amount of overlap between the sexes in the results. But my intuition tells me that there’s a general truth there.
However, I wonder whether they actually mean “map reading,” or whether they mean “sense of direction.” For example, I’m very good at reading a map. In the pre-GPS days I was the navigator in most of the male-female driving teams of which I was a member, and I did fairly well at that task. It’s when I’m trying to find my way around a place without a map that I fall down. When I ask for directions (which, even though I’m a woman, I really don’t like to do) I prefer to get simple instructions rather than more conceptual ones. Just tell me “go three blocks, turn left, then turn right at the Citgo station” rather than trying to get me to understand whether I’m going north or south or anything like that.
And give me a paper and pencil. I must write it down if it involves anything more than two steps.