Cultural determinants of the gap between self-estimated navigation ability and wayfinding performance: evidence from 46 countries

Szymon Walkowiak*, Antoine Coutrot, Mary Hegarty, Pablo Fernández Velasco, Jan Wiener, Ruth Dalton, Christoph Hölscher, Michael Hornberger, Hugo Spiers, Ed Manley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Cognitive abilities can vary widely. Some people excel in certain skills, others struggle. However, not all those who describe themselves as gifted are. One possible influence on self-estimates is the surrounding culture. Some cultures may amplify self-assurance and others cultivate humility. Past research has shown that people in different countries can be grouped into a set of consistent cultural clusters with similar values and tendencies, such as attitudes to masculinity or individualism. Here we explored whether such cultural dimensions might relate to the extent to which populations in 46 countries overestimate or underestimate their cognitive abilities in the domain of spatial navigation. Using the Sea Hero Quest navigation test and a large sample (N=383,187) we found cultural clusters of countries tend to be similar in how they self-rate ability relative to their actual performance. Across the world population sampled, higher self-ratings were associated with better performance. However, at the national level, higher self-ratings as a nation were not associated with better performance as a nation. Germanic and Near East countries were found to be most overconfident in their abilities and Nordic countries to be most under-confident in their abilities. Gender stereotypes may play a role in mediating this pattern, with larger national positive attitudes to male stereotyped roles (Hofstede’s masculinity dimension) associated with a greater overconfidence in performance at the national level. We also replicate, with higher precision than prior studies, evidence that older men tend to overestimate their navigation skill more than other groups. These findings give insight into how culture and demographics may impact self-estimates of our abilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10844
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2023

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