By Michael Bond
Published Mar 2020
Bees build complex maps of their surroundings in order to find their nests. Migratory birds use them at the end of their journeys. The achievements of animals are well known, but what of humans? How do we navigate, and why are some of us so much better at it than others?
The physical world is infinitely complex, yet most of us are able to find our way around it. We can walk through unfamiliar streets while maintaining a sense of direction, take shortcuts along paths we have never used and remember for years places we have visited only once. These are remarkable achievements.
In Wayfinding, Michael Bond explores how we navigate: how our brains make the ‘cognitive maps’ that keep us orientated. He considers how we relate to places, and asks how our understanding of the world around us affects our psychology and behaviour.
The way we think about physical space has been crucial to our evolution: the ability to navigate over large distances in prehistoric times gave Homo sapiens a crucial advantage. Children are instinctive explorers, developing a spatial understanding as they roam. And yet for the first time in our history, we have stopped using the wayfinding skills that we inherited from our peripatetic ancestors. Most of us have little idea what we may be losing.
Bond considers the latest research from psychologists, neuroscientists, animal behaviourists and anthropologists. He tackles the controversial subject of sex differences in navigation, and explores why being lost can be such a devastating psychological experience, in a book that puts us in touch with a remarkable aspect of our humanity.