Cognitive and Personality Characteristics of Masculinity and Femininity Predict Wayfinding Competence and Strategies of Men and Women

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Bem (1974) reconceptualized masculinity and femininity as independent and orthogonal constructs that both men and women possess to varying degrees. This perspective was used as a starting point to investigate whether the contributions of gender-typed characteristics can help to account for commonly observed gender differences in wayfinding (the ability to identify one’s current location and successfully navigate to an unseen location in the environment) favoring men. We further divided gender-typed characteristics into cognitive and personality characteristics to assess their separate influence on wayfinding and explored whether gender-typed characteristics predicted self-reported use of masculine wayfinding strategies (i.e., orientation strategies) and self-reported wayfinding competence. Participants were 452 college women and men in a southern U.S. public university. They completed the Gender-Stereotypic Characteristics questionnaire (Diekman and Eagly 2000), a social comparison questionnaire (created by the authors), a wayfinding strategy questionnaire (Lawton 1994), and a wayfinding competence questionnaire (Hegarty et al. 2002). For both men and women, higher masculine cognitive characteristics significantly correlated with greater use of orientation wayfinding strategies typical of men. For men, both higher masculine and feminine cognitive characteristics predicted better overall wayfinding competence whereas for women, only higher masculine cognitive characteristics predicted better overall wayfinding competence. For both men and women, higher feminine personality characteristics predicted poorer wayfinding competence. These results demonstrated the importance of considering cognitive and personality characteristics of masculinity and femininity in explaining individual differences in wayfinding.



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