Report: Most Recent College Grads Unable to Read World, Mall Maps


PORTLAND, Ore. — A new report published this week by the University of Oregon Department of Sociology revealed that 88% of recent college graduates, when asked to locate JCPenney on a mall map, responded that it is “somewhere on the left side of this wall-picture thing.”

The study, which sampled 4,185 men and women who graduated from public universities between 2007 and 2012, measured basic map-reading skills against benchmarks set by the fifth-grade social studies curriculum. According to the report, the participants, tasked with matching stores with their color-coded labels, exhibited a disturbing lack of spatial reasoning and common sense.

“’You are here,’” read one participant. “Well, that’s obvious. Where else would I be?”

“And where the hell is the ‘East Wing’?” asked another. “It doesn’t have a label – is that part of American Eagle?”

Dr. Robert Martin, the professor of sociology who led the study, noted that 71% of this group attempted to circumvent the entire problem-solving process by pulling out their GPS-capable smart phone devices. “Here we have a group with presumably highly-developed cognitive faculties,” he said, “and the only solution they could come up with was to see if Apple had developed a GPS system for building interiors.”

“I definitely wouldn’t have missed as many sales at Macy’s if Siri could’ve highlighted a route for me,” said University of Georgia class of 2010 alumnus Jared Adams. “Never could figure out how to get to the third floor.”

Interestingly, the study also found that students who spent more time at malls were less able to navigate them. “At this point, we hypothesize that prolonged exposure to Cinnabon fumes is linked with hippocampal damage,” said Dr. Martin, while in line at Cinnabon. “Further research is needed.”

Originally published: November 2012

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