Motivation moderates gender differences in navigation performance

Victor R Schinazi, Dario Meloni, Jascha Grübel, Douglas J Angus, Oliver Baumann, Raphael P Weibel, Péter Jeszenszky, Christoph Hölscher, Tyler Thrash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Gender differences in navigation performance are a recurrent and controversial topic. Previous research suggests that men outperform women in navigation tasks and that men and women exhibit different navigation strategies. Here, we investigate whether motivation to complete the task moderates the relationship between navigation performance and gender. Participants learned the locations of landmarks in a novel virtual city. During learning, participants could trigger a top-down map that depicted their current position and the locations of the landmarks. During testing, participants were divided into control and treatment groups and were not allowed to consult the map. All participants were given 16 minutes to navigate to the landmarks, but those in the treatment group were monetarily penalized for every second they spent completing the task. Results revealed a negative relationship between physiological arousal and the time required to locate the landmarks. In addition, gender differences in strategy were found during learning, with women spending more time with the map and taking 40% longer than men to locate the landmarks. Interestingly, an interaction between gender and treatment group revealed that women in the control group required more time than men and women in the treatment group to retrieve the landmarks. During testing, women in the control group also took more circuitous routes compared to men in the control group and women in the treatment group. These results suggest that a concurrent and relevant stressor can motivate women to perform similarly to men, helping to diminish pervasive gender differences found in the navigation literature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15995
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2023


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