What could neurologically account for my difficulty with driving?
April 28, 2016 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I was discussing my driving difficulties with an aunt, who told me that at least four other family members share these same traits. I am wondering what neurological or physiological issue might explain these traits.

I am not interested in getting myself medically tested here. But I know they have a lot more diagnoses for things than they used to, and I am wondering if there might be something which explains some difficulties I have always had. I'd like to be able to explain it better to people like my husband, who sometimes finds me behaviour around these issues frustrating.

My best guess is some kind of spatial processing deficiency, but the two most likely Google finds (dyspraxia and dyscalculia) didn't quite fit. So, here's what I've got. What could this be?

1) The most obvious thing is a sense of direction which goes beyond merely being 'bad' and is truly appalling. People told me this would improve once I was driving. It hasn't. Example: my driving instructor routinely takes me to a dead-end side street a few blocks away from my home to practice three-point turns. I could not tell you how to get there. It is near my home and I have been there lots of times. No clue where it is. Paying more attention hasn't seemed to make a difference. I just can't seem to visualize the layout of the streets in this manner. Thank goodness our car has GPS built in!

2) If I am out walking and I am near a subway route, I can distinguish North and South using the subway grid as a guide. But questions like 'are you North or South of X intersection' bafflle me. Husband once tried to get me somewhere and kept asking me, with varying phrasing, if I was on the North or South side of the street. I was in tears when he finally got there.

3) I don't see patterns when I look at a map. I can follow it (I had a compass on my keychain for years and now have a phone with one) but I can't conceptualize the bigger picture. Once, the map directions had me walking around various side streets for about 20 minutes. When I got to my destination, it was pointed out to me that I could have simply walked a straight line up a main road and gotten there in half the time. It had never occurred to me. I double-checked the map before I left and simply never saw it.

4) I cannot distinguish cars either. I still read the license plate on my husband's car to double-check it's the right car before I get in. And I am very anxious about how I will find the car in a parking lot when I am driving by myself.

5) My driving instructor often complains about my depth perception, for example, being too close or two far away from the curb when parking. A big issue has been that while I can and do stay safely in my lane, I am not close enough to the yellow line and he is always telling me to move over. I don't know how to see this correctly. I can't understand how to look at the road in a way that the car is the right distance from the line. I don't know what I am doing wrong, nor can I identify how to fix my behaviour so that I am consistently in the right spot.

I have worked out coping strategies as best as I can and as I said, I am not interested in medical testing. But given that others in the family share these traits, I am just curious about whether there actually might be an explanation. Any armchair diagnosticians want to give this a try? :-)
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Did you see this post from a few days ago? I wonder if there is a relationship between your kind of inability to visualize and the kind(s) described in the link.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just want to say that I don't think #5 is related to the others, or at all out of the ordinary. Parallel parking is challenging for most people to get comfortable with, and I remember that getting a feel for where my car was positioned in a lane was one of the hardest things about learning to drive. It helps if you practice in an area where there are raised bumps or a pronounced change in texture at the margins of a road or lane, such as raised reflectors between lanes, the little rumble strips just to the right of the white line that alert you if you start to drift off the road, or even an area with some gravel at the shoulder. That way you can see exactly where a given line in the road falls relative to yourself and visible reference points on the car, and you can hear exactly when your tires reach that line.
posted by jon1270 at 9:01 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have the difficulty visualizing described in the post rtha referenced there and my direction sense is terrible, I have a lot of trouble remembering where I parked, and it took ages for me to just figure out solidly which direction was north when standing right outside my front door. I think that might be a thing. I was a very late driver (late 20s) and it still takes me longer to memorize routes to places than most people, but they do eventually sink in. (I still have no idea what my commute looks like, but I know which order the last couple exits on the interstate are in, that kind of thing.) I'm a little better about finding paths when the map's right in front of me, but if I'm not looking at a visual representation of where I'm going, I'm lost.

If you're just learning right now, #5 is a matter of getting a feel for where the edges of the car are when you're sitting in it. It might be related in the sense that it might take longer to develop if you're not good at visualizing. I'm still terrified of parallel parking. But the thing about where you need to be in the lane? That, I picked up after a few months of driving regularly. You really just have to keep doing it to get more comfortable with it.

As far as distinguishing your own car, as far as I'm concerned, this is what bumper stickers are for. The completely faded out HRC equal sign is my signal that I have the right PT Cruiser. But I do try to remind myself when I first go in: I'm in the row leading out from THIS exit at the grocery store. Have some reference landmark. At really unfamiliar places, I'll take a picture with my phone.
posted by Sequence at 9:40 AM on April 28, 2016

Aside from the depth perception thing, all of this stuff sounds 100% normal, for everyone, in general. This is probably why you have so many family members with these "exact same issues".

Also, when people say this will improve with more driving practice, they mean years, not weeks. The fact that you still have a driving instructor implies that you have not driven enough to get good at this.

I moved to the other side of the major US city I live in last fall. I'm *just now* starting to really know the lay of the land, and I can still get turned around if I'm coming from an unusual direction or going somewhere unfamiliar. So there's your #1.

I have never had a sense of cardinal directions, even when I was living in a city laid out on a simple cardinally-oriented grid. I have a basic sense that Harlem is north of the West Village, but that's from looking at maps/intellectually knowing information, not from walking around in the landscape. Your husband is being kind of a dick for asking you about north/south sides of the street. Who the fuck knows that information at all times? So there's your #2.

I'm a little bit OK at realizing I'm walking around in circles or that I'm wandering the side-streets of the same basic area without actually covering much ground, but yeah, if it's an unfamiliar place I need to use the route I've been given. I can't just divine that there's a more direct way. So there's your #3.

I can only distinguish cars when it's a distinctive looking car (the red minivan I grew up driving, the silver hatchback I had before my current car). I drive a super ubiquitous make/model/color (and I'm not even good at body style, so I'll walk up to the wrong make of car sometime, if it's a black sedan), so I had to put a sticker on my car to avoid trying to get into the wrong one. Otherwise, never. I'm starting to have a sense of different makes and models due to years of sitting in traffic with nothing to do but looking at other cars. But even then, I mean who cares, unless you're a serious car enthusiast? So there's your #4.

#5 might be a thing, or it might be something you get better at as you drive more. I definitely remember getting "too far from the center line" notes from my driving teacher as a teenager. Now that's not really a thing for me anymore. With parallel parking, this is something that takes FOREVER to learn. To this day, I'll ask a passenger to check my curb distance, or even get out of the car to look. Every once in a while I'll think I'm good and get out, only to see that I'm really far from the curb. On the other hand, yeah, if you are mis-estimating by a lot all the time, and you have trouble with other depth perception stuff, definitely get your eyes checked and talk to your doctor about it.
posted by Sara C. at 9:45 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had problem #5 big time when I learned to drive! I do physiologically have bad depth perception because I have strabismus (an eye turn that makes it very hard for me to focus with both eyes at the same time) but what fixed the lane position problem for me was unrelated, I think. A driving instructor noticed that I was focusing mostly on the road right in front of me, like ten feet ahead. When I started looking at the center of the road much farther ahead, then I'd orient the car in the center of the lane, whereas before I'd been centering my actual body in the lane which meant I was way too far to the right. This isn't very intuitive now that I type it out but it worked almost instantaneously: look where you're going, not where you are.
posted by clavicle at 9:46 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

There was an episode of RadioLab a while back featuring a woman with a similar-sounding spatial navigation issue. They also talk to a researcher studying this sort of phenomenon, who has created a forum for what he calls "Developmental Topographical Orientation (DTD) a disorder in which individuals get lost in very familiar environments, throughout their whole lives, without any brain damage or other cognitive disorder."
posted by contraption at 9:47 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hi! I get lost in my own building regularly. I have also had neuropsychological testing done, and I actually asked the neuropsych doctor about it. I am confident that this doctor is informed and does keep up on research in her field, but she kind of shrugged and said other patients had reported similar problems and it seems related to an information processing problem but she couldn't connect it directly to anything that she knew of.

So, I think that this is a real thing which is not yet understood by science. I do have some other diagnosed cognitive/neurological problems and I am convinced it is somehow related...I think it may have to do with attention, as attention and memory are related (cf. Daniel Levitin's research). My best theory, which is totally unprovable, is that I am overwhelmed by sensory information and so only encode a portion of the information needed to make the proper spatial associations later. I am working on using mindfulness to intentionally remember whatever I need to know and that seems to help.

I am curious as to what other people may come up with. It's a real problem for me.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Aside from the depth perception thing, all of this stuff sounds 100% normal, for everyone, in general.

I'd really beg to differ on this. I was utterly amazed when I discovered after a few years of living in a city, that one of my friends had no idea which way was west in the city centre. I couldn't comprehend how she understood her own experience of life in that city without placing everything that happened to her within a geographical location that related to the map and the points of the compass and the way places were linked together.

There have probably been a few places I've lived where I was less sure on the points of the compass, but I'm pretty sure that everything that happens to me, happens on a mental map of some kind.

I guess, OP, that you know that already, because your husband sounds similar to me. Just to say in response to the point above, that you're not imagining it, your experience doesn't sound '100% normal for everyone' to me. Possibly nor does mine, but there is definitely wide variation.
posted by penguin pie at 9:55 AM on April 28, 2016 [15 favorites]

I have some of these same issues. I use GPS pretty much every day. Even if I drive a certain route, I can't drive back the same way. I just don't process it, it's like a completely different path to me. Unless I drive a specific route multiple times over the course of several weeks. I have a terrible sense of direction and have as long as I can remember. Usually my first instinct is wrong, I just recognize the opposite path better for some reason.

It's a running joke in my family, but I truly have a smartphone basically for GPS and I'm grateful I didn't have to use a map. I'd still be lost if I had to. Good luck. I think you'll be fine. I got my license when I was almost 20 because of this and other reasons. But it's not so bad as long as you have GPS. Some people just don't have an innate sense of direction, that's ok.
posted by lunastellasol at 9:56 AM on April 28, 2016

How are you on other spatial reasoning types of tasks? Can you put Ikea furniture together easily, accurately guess what furniture will fit through a door, or easily eyeball the size of a room or a piece of clothing? My husband finds most of those things (and things on your list) a lot more challenging than I do, and we leave it at "not as good with spatial tasks." On the other hand, because he's not good at those types of tasks, he's usually aware of it and paying more attention, which means I'm much more likely to be wandering the grocery store parking lot looking for the bits that distinguish our car because I was focusing on the grocery list and not the parking situation. He does this by noticing any interesting-looking cars nearby, a house or business number we're parked near, and any identifying section numbers in the parking area if it's a big lot. Just things that will be in his line of sight from where he leaves to get back to the car.

in re: number 5, I totally agree that's something that gets better the more you drive, because I am a late driver that has gotten better at it. One thing that is helpful is having landmarks on your car that you can line up to identify where you are in space. One I heard that I use regularly is that the center line should go right into the driver's side corner of the windshield. I can generally apply that to other situations (like edging around a pothole); if I know it's going towards the corner of the windshield I know the car won't bump into it. When I took driving lessons, they had stickers on their windows to show where to line things up in order to parallel park well.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:01 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can find accounts of similar (but perhaps more severe) issues from Sloane Crosley, who calls it a spatial disability, and Cole Cohen, who eventually discovered that she had a hole the size of a lemon in her brain.
posted by redsparkler at 10:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I still don't really know where the edges of my car are, and I've had my license 10+ years now. I've never been in an accident but my car is all beat up because I scrape it against poles, garage doors, etc and I have paid multiple thousands of dollars to get other people's cars fixed. I agree with other commenters that #5 doesn't necessarily feel related to the others. My sense of direction is poor, but not pathologically so.

I actually stopped driving late in my recent pregnancy because I was having so much trouble conceptualizing my own body in space. Not just the big belly, which would make sense, but my arms and legs too; I just stopped knowing where my edges were and was constantly knocking into things. I decided I was likely to hurt myself or someone else if I tried to drive in such a state and I could feel it becoming more and more of an issue as my due date got closer. So at least for me, there may be a hormonal component.

Happily, between parking assist, lane drift alerts, etc it seems like new cars are getting better and better at helping people like me.
posted by town of cats at 10:03 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is the complete opposite of my experience. I don't know what the issue is, but I think there is an issue. Not sure there is anything you can do about it or if there are hacks to get around it other than GPS.
posted by AugustWest at 10:08 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rtha, that article was so interesting. I don't think I am quite as bad as that guy is, but I do have trouble visualizing. And if you told me to imagine a beach, it would be just as he describes in that article, I would ruminate on the concept and not really see an actual picture. But unlike the guy in the article, I do have very vivid dreams, and I enjoy writing fiction.

And I can do IKEA furniture, but not fashion. I wear the same black pants every day, with different shirts. I had a summer job once where we had to wear uniforms and I was totally fine with that.
posted by JoannaC at 10:14 AM on April 28, 2016

I have Dyscaculia (which you've already dismissed) but I want to say that I have all of those issues including the spatial difficulties and excepting the fact that I can tell North from South. Things do improve with time and practice... I don't bump into things nearly as much with my car. But, as another poster put it, I honestly have trouble knowing where the edges of my car are and parking for me is always a nervous experience.

I have trouble with faces too, when watching a movie, if someone appears in the first act and doesn't reappear until act four, I'll have forgotten them. Don't even ask me who that famous actor is, I don't even know. As for finding cars in the parking lot... mine is covered with vinyl stickers. That way I know it's mine. Extreme? Yep, but at least I know I'm not trying to unlock a stranger's car.

Anyway, the only real way to know what's what in your brain is to get tested. You've discounted Dyscaculia, but we share a lot of the same symptoms.
posted by patheral at 10:31 AM on April 28, 2016

It's very likely you're on one end of a gamut of "directionality", for lack of a term. I'm quite the opposite - I remember things by what direction I was facing when I saw an item or performed an action. (see my early AskMe history.)

Part of it can be developed (I love to study maps and building plans), but some of it is just innate. My wife can figure out direction if she knows the time and can see the sun, but is lost other wise. Her sister is like me in sense of direction.

Something that may help-and it's related to how my wife tells direction - is to wear an analog watch and use it to find South. Point the hour hand at the sun (easier in the winter when the sun is closer to the horizon) and south is halfway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock. Do this multiple times a day in different places as practice.
posted by notsnot at 10:36 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

My experience is close to yours and almost exactly like Sara C. mentioned above. I have terrible navigation skills, just awful. I always have TWO gps systems.. (the one built into my car and google maps, waze, etc. on my phone) and I still can never find anything. I heard the term Geographic Dyslexia a few years ago and that is so me. I think it is a form of dyscalculia. At least for me. You have discounted that but it is a very wide ranging disorder... And many many people have some form. No shame....it just means you need some extra love with some things. I'm very thankful for all the technology available to make stuff easier....it may be a crutch as well but when I need it it's there.
posted by pearlybob at 10:49 AM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not to thread-sit, but the reason I discounted dyscalculia was that it had stuff in there like not knowing direction words as a kid (e.g. If someone is behind you, in front of you etc. and you cannot distinguish these). I never really had that problem.
posted by JoannaC at 10:58 AM on April 28, 2016

I am dyspraxic and have all of these issues. The neurological causes of the apparent group of non-neurotypical syndromes including dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and dyslexia are still pretty hotly contested, but I think it's reasonable to say that these are best understood as syndromes without a specific pathogenesis. Hence you may well exhibit symptoms of dyspraxia for similar reasons to me, without also having my motor-control impairments too.

A label is only going to be useful for you if you want to use it. The insight it can provide is likely to be limited, but it may help you pick strategies for dealing with your difficulties.
posted by howfar at 10:58 AM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Very interesting, stuff I never thought about, but I have a lot of trouble telling left from right, if someone tells me turn left I really have to think about it. Also only know directions (sort of) from where the sun is if I can see it. On a cloudy day in a strange place I have no clue. Maps are useless to me. I have some sort of math learning disability, and do not remember numbers like phone numbers unless I call them all the time. Also very poor hand/eye coordination. I am much too old for the school to have noticed, they just said I was lazy because I could not do math but have very good verbal skills, and clumsy. I also cannot comprehend card or other games and do not play them, very prone to motion sickness and can't look at moving video screens so those games are out as well. So maybe all this has a name now? I learned to drive in high school but it was very difficult and I failed the first time I took the driving test, and I never learned to drive stick shift although my husband tried to teach me.
posted by mermayd at 1:06 PM on April 28, 2016

I don't have a lot of specific knowledge of named disorders, but I can tell you that in my social circle, #2 (complete lack of sense of compass points) is by far the majority experience. I am constantly having to re-explain myself when I casually mention something is north of a landmark or on the east side of the street. Like 90% of my conversations like that (and I do have plenty of them) just create puzzled looks until I rephrase it to some other expression. I even sometimes have to explain what I meant when I suggested a street that runs north/south has an east side and a west side. So that one in particular is typical.

I agree that #5 (not knowing the corners of your car in space) is also very common, particularly among new drivers in their first years of driving.
posted by BlackPebble at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I suspect that some people who don't learn to drive when they're relatively young have trouble with wayfinding in a way that people who start driving as teenagers tend not to. If you walk to a handful of nearby places, and depend on other people to do the wayfinding while they drive, then the only way-finding you need to do is often in relation to transit lines. People who learned to drive before GPS was common gave their spatial reasoning skills a strong workout.

You sound exactly like the women I grew up around. Thinking of most of the women on one side of my family, almost none drive, and other than myself the few who can drive learned in their 30s or much later. Most who do drive can only manage a couple of very familiar routes they have practiced. They're mostly neurotypical (that we know of), but I'm the only one of them who doesn't have a serious issue with directions or map-reading. They all have pretty serious trouble with directions and map-reading; I can think of a couple that don't understand cardinal directions even in relationship to the subway grid, and those who've mostly lived in cities that aren't laid out on a true grid seem to have no sense of direction whatsoever. I'm talking about being concerned about needing to transfer buses because they don't know which side of the street to catch the bus on to go east or west. I don't have amazing spatial reasoning skills, but they've steadily improved since I learned to drive as a teenager. My depth perception makes me bad at #5 (especially when parallel parking), but other than that I'm fine with getting around new and familiar places.

Then again, I'm not sure what the causal relationship is; particularly in the pre-GPS days, someone who has trouble with directions might have found driving (particularly being able to anticipate turns and lane changes early enough) particularly scary and might have avoided learning. They might also find going to new places to be unduly stressful because they don't have the ability to orient themselves, which leaves them with little opportunity to improve their wayfinding skills and is life-limiting in a variety of ways - my mother is like this, and it clearly has knock-on effects on the ways she's able to participate in the world outside of going to work and the grocery store.

I do think that driving will help you gain some of these skills, but I think it'll take driving in a variety of circumstances to develop comfort.
posted by blerghamot at 1:56 PM on April 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have heard someone say, seriously, that the direction thing is sex-related. Men will say, "Turn south one mile past the Dairy Queen" and it will mean nothing to a woman. The woman, she posits, wants a direction to turn "left" or "right."
posted by megatherium at 2:18 PM on April 28, 2016

As an anecdatum, megatherium, I disagree - I'm a woman who does compass points.
posted by penguin pie at 2:55 PM on April 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Non-Verbal Learning Disorder
posted by uans at 2:57 PM on April 28, 2016

Oops. I meant: Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (wiki style)
posted by uans at 2:58 PM on April 28, 2016

A big issue has been that while I can and do stay safely in my lane, I am not close enough to the yellow line and he is always telling me to move over. I don't know how to see this correctly. I can't understand how to look at the road in a way that the car is the right distance from the line.

This is totally common. Drivers weave around within the lane as a normal feature of driving (preferably, however, without leaving the lane and causing problems).

The recommendation above about focusing down the road, not right in front of your car, is excellent. In fact, that's one habit that distinguishes a normal driver from a nervous driver, who you see hunched over the wheel, micro-jerking the wheel back and forth, driving 10mph, and afraid that they may drive off a giant cliff at any moment if they don't personally recheck the entire road scenario ten times a second.

You can't see the edge of the road immediately to the right and left of your front wheels. But you can learn to center the car within the lane, based on viewing the lane ahead in the distance. And EVENTUALLY (not right away) you will learn how to see the position of your fenders, hood and other parts of the car vis-a-vis the rest of the road, and this will automatically, properly orient the car as a whole. (This last is the same skill you will GRADUALLY learn in order not to cause mayhem in parking lots and garages.)

Best of luck. Relax.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2016

Do you generally have issues with proprioception? Like, do you otherwise have issues with physical confidence, such as a history of being bad at sports in general or having trouble with balance in yoga? It's common to a bunch of those non-neurotypical syndromes and would affect one's ability to appropriately position their car in a lane.

Are your mirrors adjusted properly? And if they are, is your driving instructor letting you use blind spot mirrors? They're great for helping you develop a better mental model of how your car's position relates to other objects on the road. You can also use them on your road test.

The other thing that helps is driving a lot of different cars. Granted you can't really do this until you have your G2, but renting cars while you're on vacation and/or signing up for Zipcar helps a lot. It gives you the opportunity to develop your proprioception skills in a way that driving lessons don't. If your driving school experience was anything like mine, you were probably taught to line specific parts of your car up with other cars when learning parking manoeuvres, which doesn't help if you're driving a car that's a different model than what your driving instructor has. Driving a bunch of other cars will force you to judge where your car is in space and help you learn how to heuristically position your car.
posted by blerghamot at 4:27 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

nthing the "I am in the general brain vicinity" posts above. I cannot retain numeric strings, cannot learn left from right (although this is manageable with strategies), and my numeric-retention disability displays many features of dyslexia (numbers swap places, 9 is perceived as 6, etc). In addition, although I enjoy music and play at a duffer's level on several instruments, I have great difficulty memorizing music, generally because I cannot recall if a given passage tends toward an ascending or descending motif.

In sum, my brain has a hard time reproducing certain mirrored relationships. It's very odd and aggravating because I am totally comfortable reading and writing, and give me a spreadsheet and some algorithms and I can work with numbers just fine. Just don't ask me to do basic math.

(NB: as I age, I do note the reflective transposition thing affecting my on-the-fly writing skill more and more: above, I first wrote "munbers" and when I proofed it, it looked fine.)

I avoided driving for years because of the left-right thing. I'm fifty and got my license less than fifteen years ago. It's been, enh, ok I guess. I definitely do not have your specific directionality issues, although I cannot parse verbal directions to a place. If directions are given as single isolated steps by a passenger (or the gmaps voice) everything's fine.

NSEW as an ordinate set, though, has never been problematic, interestingly. it's only problematic when I have to decide a direction on a bipolar basis that it becomes an issue.

You're not alone! Maybe no one in this thread has the same exact set of issues that you do, but this set of brain issues are far from uncommon.
posted by mwhybark at 6:05 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't discount something because you don't have every symptom... You wouldn't say you don't have a cold because you have every symptom except, say a runny nose... It's a spectrum. I'm not saying you HAVE Dyscalculia. I'm simply saying that the symptoms are there and perhaps you should get tested for it. I mean, I have it, but I have no difficulties with cardinal directions at all. It's different with everyone.
posted by patheral at 6:38 PM on April 28, 2016

I have heard someone say, seriously, that the direction thing is sex-related. Men will say, "Turn south one mile past the Dairy Queen" and it will mean nothing to a woman. The woman, she posits, wants a direction to turn "left" or "right."
posted by megatherium at 2:18 PM on April 28 [+] [!]

and for the record, I'm male, and either set of instructions delivered by somebody on the road at my window three miles away from the turn will not be helpful to me. either set repeated by a passenger near said turn will work just fine.
posted by mwhybark at 6:41 PM on April 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a friend like this. She took Ritalin/ adderal for years and was able to drive while on a stimulant. She stopped taking the meds and no longer drives, which is actually good as she was a frighteningly bad driver tbh. She's an ICU nurse so intelligent and capable of doing complex tasks etc. Get's lost in the hospital a lot tho.
posted by fshgrl at 10:39 PM on April 28, 2016

I suspect that some people who don't learn to drive when they're relatively young have trouble with wayfinding in a way that people who start driving as teenagers tend not to.

I don't think it's really related. My siblings and I knew well before we were old enough to drive which of us were good at maps and directions.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:18 PM on April 28, 2016

Yes this is definitely a thing, and I have it as well and posted a discussion of it to the blue fairly recently. Lots of interesting discussion there and on the link!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 6:37 AM on April 29, 2016

It's dyspraxia! I guess this is a much more common much more clear diagnosis where I am than where most respondents are.
posted by lokta at 12:20 PM on April 29, 2016

I suspect that some people who don't learn to drive when they're relatively young have trouble with wayfinding in a way that people who start driving as teenagers tend not to. If you walk to a handful of nearby places, and depend on other people to do the wayfinding while they drive, then the only way-finding you need to do is often in relation to transit lines. People who learned to drive before GPS was common gave their spatial reasoning skills a strong workout.

I don't know about this, as someone still without a full drivers license (at 29...yeah yeah, I know). While I did navigate for a long time based on transit maps (and therefore couldn't tell you which way was North if I was somewhere in the city outside those reference points), as soon as I did start using real maps (e.g. planning biking routes, and finally getting a GPS-enabled phone), I had zero problems reading them from the start, and now I have a pretty good mental image of my city's layout from all the times I've gotten somewhere using a map (which is pretty much every time I go anywhere - I never use the GPS-directions feature, I find it very confusing). If I want to figure out how to go somewhere, I just find a map of the area and look for the fastest path (usually very obvious). If I don't have a map for some reason, I imagine the best map I can remember and go from that. I've never thought I'm particularly unusual in this. (?)

(I am female, for whoever didn't think female humans understand cardinal directions, and I have a very strongly visual memory, for those connecting the dots with the earlier FPP).

Re: the actual question - #1 seems very unusual to me, #2 moderately unusual if you often use maps, normal otherwise, #3 extremely unusual, #4 extremely common, #5 extremely common. I don't see anything particularly connecting them other than what seems most likely, a weakness visualizing things in your head.
posted by randomnity at 5:04 PM on April 29, 2016

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