The science of linguistics has come to the rescue as far as giving directions is concerned.
Linguists have sought the depths of their subject matter for clues as to how best to give directions in ordinary life. What they have found is that word order matters a lot.
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The best method of guiding someone along his or her path begins with the most obvious facts. Just mouthing the right thing is not enough, according to the experts. The right order is just as vital if you want to lead someone in the right direction.
The sentences guiding the perplexed person ought to start with a mention of a visible landmark and end with a statement expressing the destination. This approach works ten times better than when the order was reversed.
The application of this finding could be made in both artificial intelligence and bionics. Even people showed faster responses as far as finding a hidden person was concerned when they were guided this way.
Such sentences as “next to the horse is the man in red” worked just fine. But when this was reversed such as in the sentence “the man in red is next to the horse” they got confused and committed many blunders.
A human figure in the “Where’s Wally?” children’s books was to be found. When the people mentioned the ways of finding him, those who pointed out the position of the fugure next to a landmark were more successful in conveying the information.
However, the crux was the word order. And it all had to do with the visual properties of the objects. Landmarks that stood out in a prominent manner were mentioned at the start of the sentence.
Those that were less prominent were mentioned at the end of the sentence. Scientists have shown that the “landmark first-object last” strategy is the most convenient and effective.
Those who were given directions in this manner were most likely to find their destination. And when the order was reversed, they became more directionless and disoriented. The human mind is such that it keeps maps of places inside it.
These schemata are built around mental records of objects that are easy to see. Finding the target requires a deft analysis of the situation and then literally following one’s nose till the object is reached. Such information could serve humankind well in the development of computer algorithms.
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The study got published in Frontiers in Psychology.