A scientifically rich look at how humans manage to get around in the world.
The ability of the human species to construct and file away mental maps of the world, writes former New Scientist senior editor Bond, allowed our highly social kind to find its way out of Africa, spread all over the world, and establish and maintain contacts and trade with faraway populations in a comparatively short amount of time. Those whose business it is to know many ways of getting around—taxi drivers, say, famously those negotiating the fabulously illogical plan of London—have more “gray matter” and better developed hypothalamuses than those who stay at home. On that note, adds the author, we are creating whole generations of geographically stunted children by not giving them room to roam and opportunities to get lost. “Free play,” he writes, “makes us less likely to suffer from spatial anxiety and more proficient in wayfinding,” and one of the crueler aspects of dementia disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease is their way of robbing victims of their sense of where they are in the world. Bond consults psychologists, neuroscientists, geographers, and other specialists in building his narrative of our kind’s devotion to “learning about the space around us and how we fit into it.” M.R. O’Connor’s standout 2019 book Wayfinding covers much of the same ground, but Bond offers a solid contribution that complements rather than competes with its predecessor. Of particular interest is Bond’s look at gender differentiation in how people perceive the world. Men, he writes, are likelier to use cardinal directions and distances in describing a route; conversely, “ask a woman and you’re more likely to get a rich description of the things you’ll pass along the way.”
Just the book for students of the human mind as well as geography and travel buffs.