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.