Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/24/map_reading_skills/

Straight blokes best at reading maps

But don't ask them to find the car keys

By Lester Haines

Posted in Science, 24th May 2007 11:34 GMT

Straight blokes are best at reading maps, but if you want to know where you left the car keys, you'd best ask a woman, a new study has revealed.

According to The Telegraph, researchers at the University of Warwick probed "how we perform mental tasks in light of sexual preferences", and found that the map reading ability league table is topped by heterosexual males, followed by gay men, lesbians, and heterosexual women, in that order.

However, while "men outperformed women on tests such as mentally rotating objects and matching angles", women trumped the chaps when it came to verbal dexterity and remembering objects' locations.

The study culled data from 198,000 people aged 20-65 years (109,612 men and 88,509 women) who participated in an online BBC poll. Another illuminating finding was that men's minds decline faster than women's, and the rate of atrophy was the same for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

Prof Elizabeth Maylor of the University of Warwick said: "This is a novel finding. Only gender has an effect on rate of ageing, not sexual orientation."

Novel it may be, but we're all going to lose our marbles sooner or later, as Maylor explained: "In all the tasks, older people did worse than younger people, whether male or female. In fact, for some of the tasks, people in their 30s were significantly worse than people in their 20s. This is one of the first times that age-related decline has been shown in adults under 40."

Maylor did, however, offer a ray of hope with the suggestion that "practice and mental exercise can slow down the rate of decline, whether you're male or female".

The full findings of the survey are published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour. ®