Relying On Google Maps Is Ruining Your Sense Of Direction

Your daily "technology is bad for you" news

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With technology making us all miserable and driving people apart, hating on it has never been trendier. This time Google Maps are in the firing line as research suggests it is ruining our natural sense of direction.

Most of us rely on some form of GPS to get us swiftly from A to B, unfortunately this means we don't spend the time working out the journey and so our brain doesn't commit it to memory. This means the next time we do the same journey we have to look it up all over again.

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Science of Us points out one study which had hikers retrace a route they had taken, one group were given step by step instructions and the other a traditional paper map to calculate a route. Those with instructions found it harder to recall their route than those that had used a traditional paper map and even failed to notice when their instructions lead them past the same place twice.

"If all you know is, 'I have to turn left at the church, then right at McDonald's,' then you can reproduce the route, but you are not able to very flexibly navigate from Point A to Point B," says Julia Frankenstein, a researcher at the Center for Cognitive Science at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "That means you can never deviate from the route you know, look for shortcuts, or improvise if the situation calls for it."

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Research also suggests regular use of GPS can shrink the part of your brain responsible for forming memories, the hippocampus. One study into London taxi drivers found they, "not only have larger-than-average memory centers in their brains, but also that their intensive training is responsible for the growth." This is because they have to recall and remember numerous routes and locations on a daily basis.

So next time you're off somewhere new, try relying on a paper map and your future self will thank you, unless it is a particularly complicated motorway journey.