#534: How Navigation Makes Us Human
If you're like most people these days, you probably rely on the turn-by-turn directions given by a smartphone app to navigate to where you want to go. While Google Maps has certainly made getting around a lot more convenient, my guest today makes the case that by relying on GPS to navigate, we're turning our backs on a skill that makes us uniquely human.
Her name is Maura O'Connor, and she's a journalist and the author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate. We begin our conversation discussing what goes on in our brain when we navigate and how we use the same part of the brain that we use for memory when we're getting around town. We then discuss how human navigation differs from animal navigation and the cultural tools that humans have developed over millennia to help them find their way, including storytelling and songs. Maura then shares research that suggests our language influences our sense of location and space and how our ancient ancestors sowed the seeds of the scientific method when they were tracking animals while hunting. We also discuss recent research that suggests relying too heavily on GPS may increase your risk for dementia and be linked to other mental health problems. We end our conversation by musing on how it is that using GPS can shrink your sense of autonomy, while navigating on your own feels existentially empowering.
Get the show notes at aom.is/wayfinding.