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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-22-2013, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Default Interesting article about how GPS affects brain

There have been several discussions about GPS navigation on this site in the past. I just came across an interesting article on the matter - apparently research is being done, with results starting to come in, on how using a GPS to navigate is affecting our brains. It deals with GPS in cars, not on the trail, but I imagine the two are very similar.

If you're interested:

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 08-22-2013, 12:09 PM
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-22-2013, 01:03 PM
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I think there's quite a difference between the two. For myself, anyway.

I definitely find using a GPS in the city leads to exactly what the article described - not actually remembering where you drove and ultimately having no idea where you are at any given time in relation to anything else.

The GPS we use in the backcountry, however, are used a lot differently and as a result I don't think have any of the same effects. We don't just turn them on and have them say " turn left at the big tree with the orange flagging - no, not that one, whenever possible make a legal U turn"

I think following an actual trail or routefinding, combined with paper maps, a sense of direction and sometimes compass and lastly GPS in a jam are still the dominant method used to navigate while hiking.

The main things I find people are using GPS for are finding difficult to find trailheads with coordinates, but obviously driving almost all the way there and having an idea, as well as tracking stats/creating trail profiles, checking for exact coordinates for a landmark on a trail, and stats like elevation on the way up. Other uses I'm not as familiar with would be geocaching etc. I wouldn't be able to comment on that but I'd say the smart users aren't going out on trails they couldn't find their way on without the GPS.

What in suggesting is that we aren't mindlessly following these things, no matter how many uses we may have for them and because of that we are still absorbing everything else
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 08-22-2013, 02:56 PM
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Yes, with a GPS you don't really remember the route you drove. Anyone who used a GPS for this purpose knows it very well. Eventually, if you drive it enough, you will remember the route and be able to drive without a GPS. I don't see how is it a big deal. I'd rather follow an electronic device, than mess around with printing maps and looking at them while driving, and taking wrong turns, especially off road.

On a hike it is very different. First of all, there are not as many trails around as streets. Second, I find the terrain and landmarks quite distinctive (unless you're in a thick forest), as opposed to countless blocks of streets. Thirdly, you're moving much slower and have more time to process what you're actually doing. And last but not least, you already have a visual memory of the area in your head from looking at the topo maps and Google Earth at home. On trail GPS usually serves me as a means to find out how long more I have to go, as trails are often self guiding. Now off trail, that's when using a GPS really becomes fun. You get to think for yourself how to get from your location to your destination, and a GPS simply reveals the terrain around you. You make the choices where to go and how - your brain is fully involved here, way more than simply hiking on trail with or without a GPS. So let's talk about how hiking on trail affects our brains. After that we can discuss how using a calculator instead of doing manual calculations affects our brains. Then we can move onto cell phones and computers, and also how cars make people fat and unhealthy.
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