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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Are You a Biased Traveler?

Are you a traveler with a southern bias? When given a choice between northern and southern routes of equal distance, do you pick the southern route?

A U.S. study reported in ScienceNews revealed that many people associate northern routes as being uphill and are thus more difficult than southern routes.  This southern bias is actually related to how travelers see information on a map, i.e. do they take a bird's-eye view or a first-person outlook?

Only people who look at the map from a first-person, ground-level perspective are prone to have the preference for a southern route that they perceive to be easier and faster. In this perspective, one sees as moving left or right, forward or back. In contrast, those taking the bird's-eye perspective are not prone to the southern bias as they navigate using directional terms north, south, east and west.

The researchers associated this findings from notions that develop early on as a child associating objects or targets that are in higher positions are more difficult to attain. Associating "up" with "more than" or "higher numbers" and "down" with "less than" or "lower numbers" also supposedly contributes to the "up is difficult" notion.

Subjects thus viewed routes going north as longer, potentially more scenic (perhaps associated with mountains) and requiring more calories or fuel to travel on than routes going south.

As for us when we planned this island travel adventure, we actually perceive the western nautical highway, which we intended to take going south to Davao, as more difficult but scenic as it involves more island hopping (=ferry boarding) compared to the eastern nautical highway, which we took going north to Laguna.  Well, something else went into play as I have traveled the eastern nautical highway before, but not the western one.  Familiarity made it seemed easier for us.

So I don't know if this southern bias applies to me.  Maybe not, as I am more likely to look for a shorter, faster or more efficient route to the destination, regardless of compass direction.  How about you, are you a biased traveler?

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