A pair of well-respected explorers have attempted to offer explanations why so many male drivers hopelessly get lost while driving and refuse to ask for directions, instead driving further and faster into the unknown.
Tristan Gooley, an explorer and expert in natural navigation, runs courses in the use of cues like the position of the sun, moon and stars for orientation.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, he commented:
“I was testing the things that I taught people – the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the weather, plants, animals, all these sorts of things. I put this test in front of groups, and men would stick within the system I had taught whereas the women would quite often say, ‘never mind all that, I can tell the lights are on in the house and nobody puts all the lights on at the start of the day’. I think women have less comfort with and faith in a system… men like systems so they stay within the system even if it isn’t working all the way.”
Gooley added that when men and women were each shown a picture of a house with a low sun beside it, men were unable to tell whether the sun was rising or setting. Women, however, realised the sun must be setting because the lights in the house were on. Gooley extrapolated that, in the context of a car journey, men refuse to ask directions because doing so would be tantamount to admitting that their system was not working, while women are able to embrace any and all extraneous factors.
“If (you’re a man and) you admit a system doesn’t work once, the fear creeps in that it doesn’t work at all and so there is a panic. Men won’t admit it, but that is my theory why men don’t ask for directions.”
The reluctance of male drivers to accept outside help may appear as simple stubbornness, however, there’s another explanation – blind panic. If men are forced to confront the fact that their system does not work, it makes them flustered and the result is acceleration and shortened tempers.
Dee Cafari, the solo round-the-world sailor, added:
“I think maybe our (women’s) outlook and our view is different. I would say that women are more open to alternative suggestions. It is a little like creating something from a box – the women will read the instructions to find out how it should be done and the men will just go forth and see what bits are left over.”