Developmental Topographical Disorientation

Some people are born with the ability to find their way around, and some aren’t.  Researchers are finding that there is a small percentage of the population that do not have the ability to find their way around or recognize locations and places that should be familiar to them.  For example, someone who doesn’t know their own home, or someone who can’t find their way to the store two blocks away despite repeated trips to the store.

There are scientists trying to study the issue and have created an online area for people to take tests to see how they do:  Getting Lost

I have taken the tests and have only found confirmation to what I already know; I get lost easy and really do not know my way around.  I know enough to know when I am turned around and completely lost; and have a sense of an area being familiar to me.  My internal compass and internal cartographer just don’t communicate together the same as they do in someone without this issue.  The strange part is that no one else in my immediate family has this issue.  They are all directional and location geniuses.

Thankfully, there is now GPS.  I too have heard stories about people who relied on GPS only to be led astray.  I have my settings to avoid all unpaved roads, and to use main highways and freeways.  It is a tool to be used to assist in getting around.

I encourage anyone to learn more, and/or sign up and take the tests, at Getting Lost  (https://www.gettinglost.ca/content.php). 

My test results are below:

Object Recognition (ability to recognize objects from different perspectives):

  • My Score: 10/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 10/10

Identity Recognition (ability to recognize faces after a short exposure)

  • My Score: 6/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 8/10

Expression Recognition (ability to recognize familiar facial expressions)

  • My Score: 7/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 9/10

Landmark Recognition (ability to recognize landmarks while navigating an environment)

  • My Score: 10/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 10/10

Heading Orientation (ability to remember a direction to take while facing landmarks)

  • My Score: 5/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 9/10

Sequence Matching (ability to recognize pathways by relying on the number of left and right turns encountered while navigating)

  • My Score: 6/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 10/10

Path Integration (ability to return to a starting location after exploring an environment with no landmarks)

  • My Score: 1/10
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: 5/10

Cognitive Map Test (ability to create cognitive maps and make use of them for orientation)

Part one (ability to make the map)

  • My Score: Did Not Solve (0/20)
  • Majority of participants had the same Did Not Solve score.  Out of those that did solve the puzzle, the majority did so in ten attempts.

Part two (ability to use the map, from memory while looking at pictures of landmarks and tell if the landmark was to the left or right of the object)

  • My Score: 7/10 (totally guessing)
  • Highest Score Achieved by the Majority of Participants: Score of 5 and 6 appeared tied out of 10
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2 thoughts on “Developmental Topographical Disorientation

  1. Interesting. I like to turn the GPS off and get lost on occasion. There is a city in NC which has changed so much, I said I am going to figure out the new lay of the land.

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    • That’s cool. I have gone out and done “exploring”, with carefully drawn out maps with notations and phone numbers to call in case I get lost, or more accurately “when I get lost”.

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