People can never get enough of the endless debate over the alleged innate differences between men and women, probably because there’s so little really hard data on the subject (I already wrote about this topic here). Now a new study from England, conducted under actual field conditions, proves that one of the most popular canards, namely that women don’t know how to park cars, is not only untrue but actually hides a much more interesting story.
As reported in The Telegraph over the weekend, the British parking lot company NCP hired a team of researchers with hidden cameras to examine the parking habits of 2,500 drivers at 700 parking lots and ramps nationwide over the course of one month. Based on their observations, they developed a “parking quotient” to analyze the finesse of both sexes.
The results in a nutshell: Women take time with their parking, carefully identifying and selecting potential parking slots before they gently ease their cars into them, maneuvering until they find the most mutually satisfactory fit. Men, on the other hand, prefer a quick in-and-out approach (now where have I heard that complaint before?).
A fundamentally different relationship to one’s environment and the individuals within it was a key difference turned up in the study. It first
analysed people’s ability to find spaces. Researchers found that impatience caused many men to drive too quickly around car parks, meaning they missed free bays. Meanwhile, women’s slower approach meant they were better able to notice spaces, or spot when other drivers were about to leave.
It also found that 39% of women excelled at rear parking, whereas only 28% of men could claim expertise in this art. What’s more,
Men were much quicker at parking, taking 16 seconds on average against the 21 seconds women needed to complete the manoeuvre. However, the extra time paid off leaving 52 per cent of women parked in the middle of each bay, compared to 25 per cent of men. This category proved particularly punishing for the men’s rating as it was the most heavily weighted in the coefficient.
Strangely, though, only 18% of women thought they parked better than men. Maybe it’s the product of all those books out there about why women “can’t” do it?
It really depends on the data you look at, of course. Last September the Daily Mail published a study of British driving test results, saying that women are far more likely to fail the parking section of the exam than men. As always with this kind of research, we all have to weigh the evidence and then head out the door and do our best, the scientists be damned.
The designer of the new study, driving teacher Neil Beeson, told the Telegraph:
In my experience men have always been the best learners and usually performed better in lessons. However, it’s possible that women have retained the information better. The results also appear to dispel the myth that men have better spatial awareness than women. It shows that us men need to give our partners more respect when it comes to parking. The facts don’t lie.
So is he saying that men and women really can learn something from one another? Who woulda thunk it?