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By Sarah Radford and agencies
Women and gay men are likely to be the worst drivers, a new study has shown.
Research has revealed that both perform poorly in tasks involving navigation and spatial awareness when compared to heterosexual men.
Psychologists at Queen Mary, University of London, who conducted the study, believe the findings mean driving in a strange environment would be more difficult for gay men and women than for straight male motorists.
Both tend to rely on local landmarks to get around, and are also slower to take in spatial information.
The computer-based tests were carried out on 140 volunteers, and demonstrated that gay men, straight women and lesbians navigated in a similar way, sharing the same weaknesses.
The results back earlier studies supporting the stereotype that women are poor navigators.
Although women are more successful in tests requiring them to remember the position of objects, men consistently do better in tasks requiring navigation and uncovering hidden objects.
The research team, led by Dr Qazi Rahman, used virtual reality simulations of two common tests of spatial learning and memory developed at Yale University.
In one, volunteers had to swim through an underwater maze to find a hidden platform, while the second involved exploring radial arms projecting from a central junction to receive 'rewards' .
Dr Rahman said: "Men are good at using distal, or geometrical cues, to decide if they’re going north or south, for instance. They have a better basic sense of direction, but they can use local land marks as well.
"Driving in a novel environment which is poor in cues is where these differences are likely to show up most.
"Women are going to take a lot longer to reach their destination, making more errors, taking wrong turns etc. They need more rich local landmarks."
Dr Rahman added that a similar performance between gay and straight men in the radial arms test showed that the divisions between sexual groups were not straightforward.
"Gay people appear to show a ‘mosaic’ of performance, parts of which are male-like and other parts of which are female-like," he said.