Why do some people have such a poor sense of direction? © Dan Bright

Why do some people have such a poor sense of direction?

A walking compass or lost at sea? It could be down to factors such as the size of areas in your brain and your personality type.

Asked by: Marina Taylor, London


Knowing which way is which depends on compass-like processes in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. A recent study found that relevant structures in these areas were larger in people with a better sense of direction (based on lab tests), suggesting a neurological basis for why some of us are more aware of direction than others.

Other research has found that women, on average, require more cues in the environment to know which way they are facing. There are also links with personality – extraverts, open-minded people and the more conscientious all tend to have a better sense of direction.

Another consistent finding is that people have good insight into their directional abilities, so whether you believe you’re a walking compass or feel like you’re forever in a spin, it’s probably true.

Why some people have a good sense of direction © Getty Images


Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.