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Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall
An eye-opening exploration of the intriguing and often counter-intuitive science of human navigation and experience of place.
In the age of GPS and iPhones, human beings it would seem have mastered the art of direction, but does the need for these devices signal something else—that as a species we are actually hopelessly lost. In fact we've filled our world with signs and arrows. We still get lost in the mall, or a maze of cubicles. What does this say about us? Drawing on his exhaustive research, Professor Collin Ellard illuminates how humans are disconnected from our world and what this means, not just for how we get from A to B, but also for how we construct our cities, our workplaces, our homes, and even our lives.
This delightful, dense and illuminating book by Ellard, an experimental psychologist, explores how we navigate space and hone our sense of direction, despite being paradoxically spatially primitive and overly evolved. All animals, monocellular and multicellular alike, find their way to their basic needs heat, light and nourishment but while ants, for example, don't get lost and amoebas are guided by an "internal toolkit," most human beings face unique difficulties. Unlike the Inuit, who have a superb sense of direction, most people find that the more sophisticated their environments, the weaker their grasp of space and direction. Ellard offers insights into how humans navigate their own homes and why they select certain spots for refuge preferences influenced by gender, culture and history. He emphasizes the importance of orienting children to natural space as well as "virtual spaces," and his chapter on cities serves as an excellent primer on urban planning and psychogeography, the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographic environment on the emotions.