Some people always know which way is north and how to get out of a building. Others can live in an apartment for years without knowing which side faces the street. Differences among people that include spatial skills, experience, and preferred strategies for wayfinding are part of what determines whether people get lost in buildings - and psychological scientists could help architects understand where and why people might get lost in their buildings, according to the authors of an article in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
"If you paid attention to the sequence of turns along the path, then you may have difficulty because you need to remember to reverse the sequence, and this becomes increasingly difficult as the number of turns increases. But instead, if you paid more attention to the objects that you passed, then you may navigate back to the front door by going from one familiar object to another without considering the sequence of turns. This strategy will work, as long as you can always see a familiar object. If you get lost and enter an unexplored part of the building, you will have difficulty finding your way back," says Laura A. Carlson of the University of Notre Dame, first author of the article.