Aphantasia and navigation (dependence on GPS units and maps)

Holly asked 1 year ago
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I’m curious to know if there is any correlation between navigation skills and aphantasia. If one cannot visualize a map, then i would think successful navigation would have to rely on repetition (driving that route frequently) or the dependence on navigation aids. would those with aphantasia have more difficulty trying to construct new routes to get somewhere without the help of a navigation aid?

Eric Johnson February 18, 2020 04:04 am

Where I grew up and live, everything is laid out very nicely. Most roads and hiways go north and south or east and west. It makes the navigation real easy.

Rachel C February 18, 2020 07:40 pm

It’s a mixture of repitition and the need for a GPS or someone to give me directions. Even for places I know where to go, I need to stop and think about it for a few seconds to make sure I KNOW where I’m going. If someone were to ask me how to get to my grandmother’s house, I would probably not be able to give great directions, even though I know where to go from repitition. It’s somewhat embarrassing because I know my parents don’t need GPSes or directions to go places in our city, but I do. Granted I just recently got my full liscence and I haven’t driven that much around my city, but I still notice this.

phoebe kearns February 19, 2020 06:24 am

It’s definitely a mix of exposure/repition and outside help. I find I can easily navigate to places I’ve driven to before, even if only once, but the moment someone is describing how to get someplace via a different route I’m completely lost, even in my hometown. For me, I have to have a visual guide (such as a GPS) in order to drive to new places because it allows me to clearly see where I am going.

Colm Roe February 22, 2020 02:29 am

It’s memory as opposed to mind’s eye.

In my job I regularly have to visit new houses, I get the location map online and should be able to just go…’Yeah it’s at the end of that street’. But when I’m driving to the house I get lost; have to check the map again, find a MAIN road I know well, and do the memory thing…’take the fifth left turn, second right, then it’s one of the last houses on the right’.

I know I should be able to just picture the majority of the journey!

Main roads in a few miles’ radius from here are like muscle memory, the smaller roads off them slink into varying degrees of obscurity.

I don’t use Sat Nav in case I start to lose the little muscle memory I have.

Dax October 31, 2020 12:04 pm

I dont visually navigate, I have a sense of where I am, where I need to be and how to get there. I often have a sense of which direction it is even after taking random turns.

Old enough that most of my driving life was without gps! And I ride a motorbike so gps is tricky.

Sometimes I will read a map, note major roads, turns, street names. But even then if i get it wrong I can just sense what i need to do.

Im good at backtracking, giving someone a lift home, they direct you down roads you have never seen. Then they get out and I need to retrace it. I find that easy as I remember the path and can reverse it. I know plenty of people who struggle as it can look different in the other direction.

My best effort, was in Boston staying with a friend. Not my city, not even my country. But i got a rental car and drove to Canada. Easy, follow signs on highway. But when i went back I just drove into Boston, on a different highway than Id taken out, took an exit that felt good and did some other roads and turns. Now totally lost I pulled into a gas station for help. Well it turns out I was 2 blocks away and at the end of his street, but i hadnt been down that end before and didnt see the street sign. This while driving on the other side of the road from my usual.

Not sure if my aphantasia helps, probably only in that I dont attempt to solve it by "seeing" the map. I can just sense distance and directions and remember them.

Allie November 21, 2020 07:28 pm

Yes. My mother specifically remembers how I "could not understand maps" and how surprising she found that when I was a child. I have only discovered recently that this is due to my lack of visual memory. I just can’t hold a visual of a map in my head. I do have a tactile memory that is actually very, very good (another recent realization) that allows me to compensate for my lack of visuals. I also find that language helps me remember things as well.

I did recently discover that people are making tactile 3d printed maps. I know if I had a tactile map like that — I could orient myself for sure and remember my orientation for the most part. Another member of this site, Ryo, told me that he had trouble with maps and visuals for directions and that he learned to ask others to describe directions in a more kinesthetic manner. So he said instead of saying, "Turn at the 3rd light," he suggests having people say "Take the (xth) turn," which is a slight change but eliminates the visuals and also helps to use language for anchoring. Ryo’s advice about changing the language like this was very helpful to me. Maybe this could help you or others too.

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