LOS ANGELES - There has always been the stereotype that men have a better sense of direction than women and previous studies have backed up this belief.
But a new study, led by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has found that the reason for this is not what most people may think.
According to the study, published on Jan. 17 in the Royal Society Open Science journal, researchers say boys develop different skill sets depending on their own lived experience that may help them build navigational skills where women may be lacking.
Researchers give the example of boys playing outside more than girls which may contribute to a better sense of direction later on in life.
Lived experience shapes your perception
"Sex differences in behaviour or performance can arise from biological or cultural processes that have little to do with evolution," the study's researchers wrote.
Researchers didn't just analyze data from humans. They used a meta-analysis of previous studies analyzing males and females across 21 different species.
Researchers found that it wasn't an evolutionary advantage that made men better at navigating as some previously thought.
They found that women and men have the same potential for navigational skills and it all depends on the persons' experiences growing up that set them up for their future.
"Recent evidence in subsistence populations strongly suggests that sex difference in spatial navigation in humans is not a cultural universal," the study's authors wrote. "Rather, it disappears in cultures where males and females have similar ranging behavior."
Researchers added that their findings point to evidence of social conditioning and its impacts on human beigns and their perception of reality.
"We believe that future research on human sex differences in navigation should focus on the role of socialization and culture, rather than evolutionary genetic factors," the researchers wrote.