Sex Roles

, Volume 47, Issue 9–10, pp 389–401 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Wayfinding Strategies and Anxiety About Wayfinding: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

  • Carol A. Lawton
  • Janos Kallai


Two studies examined gender and cultural differences in wayfinding strategies and anxiety about wayfinding. Men in both Hungary and the United States reported greater preference for a strategy of orienting to global reference points, whereas women reported greater preference for a strategy based on route information. A higher level of wayfinding anxiety was reported by Americans, and women in both countries reported greater wayfinding anxiety than did men. Women in the United States, but not in Hungary, reported less childhood wayfinding experience than did men; women in both countries reported feeling less safe than did men. Feeling of personal safety and wayfinding strategy preferences mediated the gender difference in wayfinding anxiety.

gender wayfinding spatial cognition 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, J., & Tindall, M. (1972). The concept of homerange: New data for the study of territorial behavior. In W. J. Mitchell (Ed.), Environmental design: Research and practice (Vol 1, pp. 1-7). Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. Astur, R. S., Ortiz, M. L., & Sutherland, R. J. (1998). A characterization of performance by men and women in a virtual Morris water task: A large and reliable sex difference. Behavioural Brain Research, 93 185-190.Google Scholar
  3. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51 1173-1182.Google Scholar
  4. Box, S., Hale, C., & Andrews, G. (1988). Explaining fear of crime. British Journal of Criminology, 28 340-356.Google Scholar
  5. Braungart, M. M., Braungart, R. G., & Hoyer, W. J. (1980). Age, sex, and social factors in fear of crime. Sociological Focus, 13 55-66.Google Scholar
  6. Bryant, K. J. (1982). Personality correlates of sense of direction and geographical orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43 1318-1324.Google Scholar
  7. Bufkin, J., & Eschholz, S. (2000). Images of sex and rape: Acontent analysis of popular film. Violence Against Women, 6 1317-1344.Google Scholar
  8. Burns, P. C. (1998). Wayfinding errors while driving. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18 209-217.Google Scholar
  9. Central Statistical Office of Hungarian Government. (1990-1999). Regional crime report for Baranya county. Pécs, Hungary: KSHI Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dabbs, J. M., Chang, E.-L., Strong, R. A., & Milun, R. (1998). Spatial ability, navigation strategy, and geographic knowledge among men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 19 89-98.Google Scholar
  11. Denis, M. (1997). The description of routes: A cognitive approach to the production of spatial discourse. Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive/Current Psychology of Cognition, 16 409-458.Google Scholar
  12. Dietz, T. L. (1998). An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles, 38 425-442.Google Scholar
  13. Eals, M., & Silverman, I. (1994). The hunter-gatherer theory of spatial sex differences: Proximate factors mediating the female advantage in recall of object arrays. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15 95-105.Google Scholar
  14. Edwards, C. P. (2000). Children's play in cross-cultural perspective: Anew look at the Six Cultures study. Cross-Cultural Research, 34 318-338.Google Scholar
  15. Fattah, E. A. (1993). Research on fear of crime: Some common conceptual and measurement problems. In W. Bilsky, C. Pfeiffer, & P. Wetzels (Eds.), Fear of crime and criminal victimization (pp. 45-70). Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag.Google Scholar
  16. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1990-1999). Uniform crime reports for the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  17. Galea, L. A. M., & Kimura, D. (1993). Sex differences in route-learning. Personality and Individual Differences, 14 53-65.Google Scholar
  18. Golledge, R. G., Dougherty, V., & Bell, S. (1995). Acquiring spatial knowledge: Survey versus route-based knowledge in unfamiliar environments. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 85 134-158.Google Scholar
  19. Golledge, R. G., Ruggles, A. J., Pellegrino, J. W., & Gale, N. D. (1993). Integrating route knowledge in an unfamiliar neigh-borhood: Along and across route experiments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 13 293-307.Google Scholar
  20. Haghighi, B., & Sorensen, J. (1996). America's fear of crime. In T. J. Flanagan & D. R. Longmire (Eds.), Americans view crime and justice: Anational public opinion survey (pp. 16-30). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Halpern, D. F. (2000). Sex differences in cognitive abilities (3rd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Harrell, W. A., Bowlby, J. W., & Hall-Hoffarth, D. (2000). Directing wayfinders with maps: The effects of gender, age, route complexity, and familiarity with the environment. Journal of Social Psychology, 140 169-178.Google Scholar
  23. Harris, M. B., & Miller, K. C. (2000). Gender and perceptions of danger. Sex Roles, 43 843-863.Google Scholar
  24. Hart, R. (1979). Children's experience of place. New York: Irvington.Google Scholar
  25. Herman, J. F., Heins, J. A., & Cohen, D. S. (1987). Children's spatial knowledge of their neighborhood environment. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 8 1-15.Google Scholar
  26. Holding, C. S., & Holding, D. H. (1989). Acquistion of route net-work knowledge by males and females. Journal of General Psychology, 116 29-41.Google Scholar
  27. Kellerman, A. L., & Mercy, J. A. (1992). Men, women, and murder: Gender-specific differences in rates of fatal violence and victimization. Journal of Trauma, 33 1-5.Google Scholar
  28. LaGrange, R. L., & Ferraro, K. F. (1989). Assessing age and gender differences in perceived risk and fear of crime. Criminology, 27 697-717.Google Scholar
  29. LaGrone, C. W. (1969). Sex and personality differences in relation to feeling for direction. Journal of General Psychology, 81 23-33.Google Scholar
  30. Lawton, C. A. (1994). Gender differences in way-finding strategies: Relationship to spatial ability and spatial anxiety. Sex Roles, 30 765-779.Google Scholar
  31. Lawton, C. A. (1996). Strategies for indoor wayfinding: The role of orientation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 16 137-145.Google Scholar
  32. Lawton, C. A. (2001). Gender and regional differences in spatial referents used in direction giving. Sex Roles, 44 321-338.Google Scholar
  33. Lawton, C. A., Charleston, S. I., & Zieles, A. S. (1996). Individual-and gender-related differences in indoor wayfinding. Environment and Behavior, 28 204-219.Google Scholar
  34. Lawton, C. A., & Morrin, K. A. (1999). Gender differences in pointing accuracy in computer-simulated 3D mazes. Sex Roles, 40 73-92.Google Scholar
  35. Linn, M. C., & Petersen, A. C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 56 1479-1498.Google Scholar
  36. Linn, M. C., & Petersen, A. C. (1986). A meta-analysis of gender differences in spatial ability: Implications for mathematics and science achievement. In J. S. Hyde & M. C. Linn (Eds.), The psychology of gender: Advances through meta-analysis (pp. 67-101). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Malinowski, J. C. (2001). Mental rotation and real-world wayfinding. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 92 19-30.Google Scholar
  38. Matthews, M. H. (1986). Gender, graphicacy, and geography. Educational Review, 38 259-271.Google Scholar
  39. Maxfield, M. (1987). Explaining fear of crime: Evidence from the 1984 British crime survey [Home Office Research Study, No. 43]. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  40. Medrich, E. A., Roizen, J., Rubin, V., & Buckley, S. (1982). The serious business of growing up: A study of children's lives outside school. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  41. Miller, L. K., & Santoni, V. (1986). Sex differences in spatial abilities: Strategic and experiential correlates. Acta Psychologica, 62 225-235.Google Scholar
  42. Montello, D. R., Lovelace, K. L., Golledge, R. G., & Self, C. M. (1999). Sex-related differences and similarities in geographic and environmental spatial abilities. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 89 515-534.Google Scholar
  43. Montello, D. R., & Pick, H. L. (1993). Integrating knowledge of ver-tically aligned large-scale spaces. Environment and Behavior, 25 457-484.Google Scholar
  44. Munroe, R. L., & Munroe, R. H. (1971). Effect of environmental experience on spatial ability in an East African society. Journal of Social Psychology, 83 15-22.Google Scholar
  45. Munroe, R. L., & Munroe, R. H. (1997). Logoli childhood and the cultural reproduction of sex differentiation. In T. S. Weisner, C. Bradley, & P. L. Kilbride (Eds.), African families and the crisis of social change (pp. 299-314). Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.Google Scholar
  46. Nerlove, S. B., Munroe, R. H., & Munroe, R. L. (1971). Effect of environmental experience on spatial ability: A replication. Journal of Social Psychology, 84 3-10.Google Scholar
  47. Newson, J., & Newson, E. (1987). Family and sex roles in middle childhood. In D. J. Hargreaves & A. M. Colley (Eds.), The psychology of sex roles (pp. 142-158). Cambridge, England: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  48. O'Laughlin, E. M., & Brubaker, B. S. (1998). Use of landmarks in cognitive mapping: Gender differences in self report versus performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 24 595-601.Google Scholar
  49. Riger, S., & Gordon, M. T. (1981). The fear of rape: A study in social control. Journal of Social Issues, 37 71-92.Google Scholar
  50. Riger, S., Gordon, M. T., & Le Bailly, R. (1979). Women's fear of crime: From blaming to restricting the victim. Victimology: An International Journal, 3 274-284.Google Scholar
  51. Sacco, V. F. (1990). Gender, fear, and victimiation: A preliminary application of power-control theory. Sociological Spectrum, 10 485-506.Google Scholar
  52. Sadalla, E. K., & Montello, D. R. (1989). Remembering changes in direction. Environment and Behavior, 21 346-363.Google Scholar
  53. Sandstorm, N. J., Kaufman, S. A., & Huettel, S. A. (1998). Males and females use different distal cues in virtual environment navigation task. Cognitive Brain Research, 6, 351-360.Google Scholar
  54. Schmitz, S. (1997). Gender-related strategies in environmental development: Effects of anxiety on wayfinding in and representation of a three-dimensional maze. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 17 215-228.Google Scholar
  55. Schmitz, S. (1999). Gender differences in acquisition of envrionmental knowledge related to wayfinding behavior, spatial anxiety, and self-estimated environmental competencies. Sex Roles, 41 71-93.Google Scholar
  56. Silverman, I., & Eals, M. (1992). Sex differences in spatial abilities: Evolutionary theory and data. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 487-503). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Spielberger, C. D., Jacobs, G. E., Crane, R., Russell, S., Westberry, L., Barker, L., et al. (1979). The preliminary manual for the State-Trait Personality Inventory. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida.Google Scholar
  58. Ward, S. L., Newcombe, N., & Overton, W. F. (1986). Turn left at the church, or three miles north. Environment and Behavior, 18 192-213.Google Scholar
  59. Warr, M. (1984). Fear of victimization: Why are women and the elderly more afraid? Social Science Quarterly, 65 681-702.Google Scholar
  60. Webley, P. (1981). Sex differences in homerange and cognitive maps in eight-year old children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1 293-302.Google Scholar
  61. Weinrath, M., & Gartrell, J. (1996). Victimization and fear of crime. Violence and Victims, 11 187-197.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol A. Lawton
    • 1
  • Janos Kallai
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIndiana-Purdue UniversityFort Wayne
  2. 2.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of PécsHungary

Personalised recommendations