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(BBC-US)   Psychologists attempt to answer the question: Why is it so hard to give good directions? Subby contends the question should be: Why is it so hard for people to follow good directions?   ( bbc.com) divider line
    More: Interesting, good directions  
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3496 clicks; posted to Main » on 06 Nov 2012 at 11:25 PM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2012-11-07 02:01:00 AM  
3 votes:
I was going out to dinner with a cousin from St. Joseph, MO and she was going over all the usual red barn behind a billboard turn right directions so I asked the name of the restaurant which was in an antebellum house in a tiny town about 40 miles away with no freeway there and just plugged it into Google maps in my first smart phone. It was the darkest drive I've been on in decades over roads that were converted from cow trails and I still got there as they were walking into the place. They were expecting me to be as much as an hour late and she and her hubby switched to smart phones on that one experience.

Directions suck because very little is truly unique. There are lots of barns and lots of billboards.
2012-11-07 03:17:06 AM  
2 votes:
Two wrongs don't make a right.

... but three lefts do.

And you pompous people and your "cardinal" directions... knock it off.

1. People are asking because they don't know where they are.
2. Drop you in a strange city on a cloudy night... drive around for 3 minutes and you won't know where north is either.

Just tell me left or right Magellan... If I had my sextant I wouldn't be asking for directions.

/the key to giving good directions is to not be a moron.
2012-11-07 11:02:01 AM  
1 vote:

tommyl66: What kind of douche gives cardinal directions? "Yeah, just go north on Main Street, then go east on Birch Street. What's that? You're not familiar with the area and don't immediately know which way north is? Oh, you silly fool, you're so much dumber than I am!"

Sun rises in the East, sets in the West. From that it's trivial to find North and South. So, unless it's exactly Noon/Midnight and your memory of where the sun rose/set is erased, YES, you are dumb if you can't figure out the cardinal directions. Sorry.
2012-11-07 10:59:50 AM  
1 vote:
Does anybody else ever give people directions to a certain point, then tell the person to ask somebody once they get to that point? If somebody is looking for a place three towns over, I can't give them turn-by-turn directions without them falling asleep. So I'll give them directions to a gas station that is on the way and once they get there they can get the details they need. I do that a lot in the city, too. If I'm near South Station and somebody asks how to get to Fenway Park (on foot) I'll send them to the Common or Copley Square and tell them to ask somebody once they get there. No sense overloading them with details they'll forget halfway there.
2012-11-07 10:49:56 AM  
1 vote:
People give shiatty directions.

"Take the rirst right, then second left, then first left, then the fourth right after the light."

"Turn towards Acredale just after you pass the old Miller place, then head due North."

"Right on Second, left on Onowabee, cross Main and then right at the 24/13 interchange."

I give directions based on landmarks that any non-local would rcognize, i.e. "Left at the McDonald's and then it's acros the street from a Bennigans that's a few miles down the road."

My experience is that most directions are either too specific or require local knowledge or are too lengthy (and easily forgotten). For complicated directions, I usually give a landmark to get them in the general area so they can stop to get further directions "There's a 7-11 there that can give you directions to your destination."
2012-11-07 09:42:24 AM  
1 vote:

epyonyx: I give cardinal directions first and then tell them what to look for and whether to go left or right from there.

Also, how is it hard for people to determine which way is east / west?

For most people its about the same difficulty level as finding the higgs boson.
2012-11-07 08:51:50 AM  
1 vote:

TWX: I observed a lady in a convenience store asking the clerk for directions, who honestly, seemed equally lost.

I drive to various sites over an approximately 100 square mile area in a large suburban city, and I did field work in the entire metro area for many years before that. There are some freeways over on the west side that I can't give info on, but those were built after I stopped serving that area and are the better part of fifty miles from where I live and work.

Ask people who drive around for a living. Those people will probably give you the best directions, since they've actually been there, and are there all of the time.

Pizza delivery guys?
2012-11-07 02:17:13 AM  
1 vote:
When I give directions, I not only reference street names, but also landmarks. Sometimes one is easier to see than the other, and sometimes people are better able to decode one than the other.
2012-11-07 01:39:23 AM  
1 vote:

FunkOut: Catlike Typist: Kraftwerk Orange: Most people don't understand cardinal directions. I'll sometimes tell someone to go south on a certain road, and they'll ask "Is that left or right..."

THIIIIIS, it makes me foam at the mouth. Can't you tell left from right? How can you not know which way is north?

I get pretty irritated with that as well. Trying to give directions to someone and then they're like "How do I know which direction west is?" Dammit, you've lived in this area since birth and you couldn't even at least manage to remember that one mountain is north and the other mountain is southeast?

nice pocket protectors you got there. keep pretending you are not the minority of how people are, and let it bother you. scouts, hikers, hunters and people with little ball compass' on their dashboard know the direction. most people do not, and you know that. a heck of a lot of people have never seen a compass much less don't know how to use one or know how to find what direction they are facing.
2012-11-07 12:42:22 AM  
1 vote:
I KICK ASS at explaining things. All subjects. All ages. The secret is to pretend you are a complete n00b. With younger people, assume ZERO implied knowledge, even things like gravity and friction.

FTA: This same quirk is why teaching is so difficult to do well. Once you are familiar with a topic it is very hard to understand what someone who isn't familiar with it needs to know.

Why is this so difficult??? It's simply about empathy. Have we become a world of Asperger sufferers?

And I agree. "Smart" people are the worst. One of my best mates, an IT expert who has done plenty of hours in help desk / training roles, was trying to explain predictive text to me when it first came out.

I was just about to punch him in the neck, when another friend overheard us and she explained it to me perfectly in about 15 words. IT expert was suitably embarrassed; at least I'll give him that.

Too many people in business are given training roles who couldn't even train a goldfish to know when it's feeding time. Many necks need to be punched.
2012-11-07 12:36:39 AM  
1 vote:
The problem is that I know how to get there without thinking. And I can also adapt to screwing up the path I was planning to take.

It's also why grandma's recipe cards never seem to come out right. They're more like a checklist than a complete recipe, or there's something like a five minute rest where the dough or batter hydrates where grandma went and washed a bowl.

So, when I do have to give directions I ditch the little wiggles I normally make and try to think of the most direct route. My own route might contain a few twists and turns that bypass construction traffic but I'll try to get you there without having to be familiar with the construction. That familiarity is my key out of clusterfark gridlock at rush hour, I know how to bypass the worst of things. Protip: One major surface street over from the disaster zone isn't going to be much better.
2012-11-06 11:55:17 PM  
1 vote:
Most people don't understand cardinal directions. I'll sometimes tell someone to go south on a certain road, and they'll ask "Is that left or right..."
2012-11-06 10:14:13 PM  
1 vote:
I told her way up yonder past the caution light
There's a little country store with an old Coke sign
You gotta stop in and ask Miss Bell for some of her sweet tea
Then a left will take you to the interstate
But a right will bring you right back here to me
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