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Inner Navigation: Why We Get Lost and How We Find Our Way Paperback – August 1, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On a trip to Cologne Belgium in 1948, Jonsson left the train station before dawn and headed toward the Rhine. Jonsson was sure he was heading west, and even though he saw the sun rising over the river ahead of him, he continued to be "turned around" for days, thinking that west was east and vice versa. Similar tales of mis- and disorientation make up much of this chatty book. With dozens of examples, the author shows how we create cognitive maps a mental sense of how to navigate an area based on landmarks and explains why such maps can work only if we have both a good sense of direction ("direction frame") and sense of location ("dead reckoning system"). If either of these is faulty, he argues, then so is our cognitive map, and we'll remain misoriented no matter what we do. Like Jonsson watching the sunrise in the "west," we'll privilege our illusory maps over what we absolutely know is true. The book plays the same few notes again and again, flirting dangerously with tedium. Fortunately, many of Jonsson's stories are intriguing, especially those involving Saharan and arctic guides. That Jonsson's ideas are based solely on anecdotal evidence is bothersome, but he defends them convincingly, and one hopes that future experiments will bear them out.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

No matter how detailed a map may be, it omits some facets of the physical space it represents. When people enter such a space, their mind's eye fills in the omissions as they navigate, but nearly everyone (not just male motorists!) has had the experience of becoming lost in a mapped-out space, even a familiar one. With a lifelong interest in this type of bewilderment, Jonsson presents idiosyncratic anecdotes about getting lost. Inattention is certainly an element in such befuddlement, but Jonsson avers that more is involved. We possess a "cognitive map" that may not be precisely up-to-date with the actual physical space, which continually changes its appearance. We may also view the physical space from angles that may differ from the map in our minds, causing us to get turned around in familiar neighborhoods or unable to locate the car in the parking lot. Jonsson acquired his interest in these cognitive aspects of spatial sense while trekking through Scandinavian forests. An interesting, offbeat ramble. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416575146
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416575146
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,797,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Regina Chang on October 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Inner Navigation is a compilation of unique stories told by a man who knows his way around. With each chapter, Jonsson reveals to us (in his own opinion) how our subconscious is helping us find our way. This book is written with very little neuroscience in it, but a lot of insight. The most frustrating aspect of this book is that however interesting Jonsson's explanations are, there is the annoying fact that these inner mechanisms of the mind have not been proven.

Synopsis
Jonsson begins first half of the book explaining how the human (and possibly animal) navigation system works. There is no complex neuroscience involve, simply what we are thinking in a subconscious level. We have a dead reckoning system that tells us where we are and works in combination with a direction frame that tells us the relative direction of our destination. Both of these senses are centered around a cognitive map and are updated by landmarks or other environmental cues. Johnson provides various examples to give these functions some context.
Next, Jonsson gives many examples of navigation skills that work extraordinarily well in natives who can travel miles in a barren landscape and accurately point to the direction of their camp, without hesitation. He offers an intuitive explanation as to how these miraculous orientation skills work. The majority of the book focuses on what happens when people with good navigational skills get lost. They can walk in circles or have a slip in their directional frame that turns their cognitive map 180 degrees. The many anecdotes offer support for Jonsson's theories. The book ends with how aging effects navigation.

Style and Structure
The writing style of the book is unassuming and down to earth.
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Format: Hardcover
Erik Jonsson's lively discourse on the sense of direction comprising Inner Navigation, begins with several stories from personal and colleague experience to demonstrate the idea of cognitive maps, then moves into the science realm to explain how such 'maps' work. How humans and animals get lost, navigate, and recover from being lost makes for an intriguing discussion which should interest nonscientists as much as scientists.
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Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued by the promise of this book, "Why we get lost in the world and how we find our way". Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, neither of those topics I feel were answered in the book. The book is broken down into two halves, and both of them are mega-repetitive. Let me summarize the book for you:

Part 1) "Cognitive Maps". When you are in an area for the first time, your mind generates a "cognitive map" of the area. Basically, it's a map, in your mind. Okay, now repeat that concept about 800 times, and that's the first half of the book.

Part 2) Stories about getting lost. Occasionally, people who are generally good with directions get lost, and it freaks them out. Every story told is an example of that same exact point, and there are a lot of them. Some of the stories are interesting just because they are stories; virtually none of them (past the first couple) are insightful.

In all seriousness, there are only a couple of insights brought up in the book. Instead of expanding upon them and approaching the insights from different perspectives or angles, they are repeated over and over and over, just bashing the reader over the head. And as the book is designed for non-scientists, the points are very vaguely described in a very I-just-made-this-idea-up fashion.

This book would have been much more effective as a short essay, because the content just isn't there. Probably it got turned around somewhere in France due to a few sunless days....
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Format: Hardcover
I like to go on hikes and when I go alone I take small sized books with me to read at various way points on the trail. I bought this book because its basic idea seemed to reference some of the experiences I have had while on these hikes.

In the forward, written by noted cognitive scientist and Apple Fellow Donald Norman we find out that the author, Erik Jonsson is the kind of person who takes extension courses at the local college in order to better understand himself and the world he lives in. While taking such courses he meets Prof. Norman who encourages Jonsson to turn his essays into this book.

Jonsson begins with his personal experience while hiking or traveling. He relates that he creates cognitive maps based on feature in the environment, but more importantly he discusses confusion errors and how they create a sense of disorientation, only to be suddenly reversed when some new factor comes into account. This is something that I can relate to. I live in Toronto where "Lake" is "South", but when I visit downtown Chicago I intuitively use this rule and often get lost - unless I actively realize that Lake Michigan is to the North and consciously sort out left/right/east/west. Similarly on a loopback trail just this past weekend I experienced a sense of disorientation trying to get back to the trail head until I recognized a pair of trees as I approached them from the opposite direction and understood where I was in terms the the route and the last two minor trail crossings.

The book is rich in other examples. Jonsson looks at the literature and discussed the problems of navigating in the Sahara or of using the prevailing winds to find one's way in the Arctic.
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