Head South — It's Just Easier!

Compass i

Ok so I know you said go north, but is that right, or left? Saad Akhtar/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Saad Akhtar/Flickr

Ok so I know you said go north, but is that right, or left?

Saad Akhtar/Flickr

I've never been very good with a compass.  As a kid, I thought north meant up and south meant down, which of course it does, in a sense, but not really.  I think I had to re-learn how that actually works in real life, navigating, about a million times.  I still have a hard time orienting myself according to cardinals and ordinals.  Basically, if I can't figure out which direction the Atlantic Ocean is from where I'm standing, I have no clue which way is east.  It doesn't mean I get lost all the time, though.  I seem to have a compass in my head that reasonably reliably reminds me to turn right or left.  But if you give me directions and tell me to head south on x road, forget about it — my first question to you will be something like, "Ok, but if you're in the driveway facing the road, which way do you turn?"

All this is to say, I always had a really hard time with the concept of driving north.  Sure, one could fly north, but drive?  Turns out I may just have an extreme form of something many folks have — a strong inclination to head south.  Why is that?  Well, because north feels uphill, of course!  Of course!

In a study appearing in an upcoming Memory & Cognition, researchers found,

people making travel plans may unwittingly heed a strange rule of thumb — southern routes rule. In a new experiment, volunteers chose paths that dipped south over routes of the same distance that arched northward.

What's more,

volunteers also estimated that it would take considerably longer to drive between the same pairs of U.S. cities if traveling from south to north, as opposed to north to south.

Ok, so obviously it's harder to go up than down, and that logic unlogically persists when applied to north and south ... Which weirdly makes my childhood confusion easier to understand, right?





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