GPS fosters hopeless dependency

April 20th, 2011 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

London, April 20 (IANS) Growing use of satellite navigation or GPS is actually fostering hopeless dependency among drivers, reducing them to non-thinking automatons, a study says.

Study author Rosamund Langston, behavioural neuroscientist at the University of Dundee, said that using the systems lulls the brain into a false sense of security meaning we keep one eye on the “flashing arrow” instead of looking out of the window for vital reminders.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in any weather, at all times anywhere on earth.

Langston conducted the study into an “innate sense of direction”. She said using hi-tech mapping solutions will result in humans doing less of the navigation which forms one part of our natural ability to find our way around, the Daily Mail reports.

Langston said: “Our tests showed the ’sense of direction’, or our ability to navigate to new places, is really down to two skills. We seem to have some innate directional awareness which is ‘hard wired’ into our brains from birth.

“But we also found that another significant part of the brain’s ability to find its way around comes from our knack of memorising experiences from the places we have been to previously.

“In this way we recognise land marks, particular road layouts or visualise a mental map of the places we’ve visited.

“Our tests on rats showed that framing visual references was an incredibly effective way for them to get around, and rats are not what you would call especially visual animals.

“With GPS devices and the increase in popularity of hi-tech navigational tools, we’re doing less of this visual navigation which the earliest humans will have used expertly.

“If most of our time travelling through new areas is spent following a flashing arrow instead of looking out of the windows, we’re not likely to know anymore about the place for having been there.”

Langston said the process involved in acquiring knowledge from a computer such as a sat-nav or mobile phone, compared with plotting on a map is vastly different.

It means that if drivers fail to take in any kind of reference from their journey when the batteries go flat, the result could be akin to Hansel and Gretel lost in the forest.

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