Behavioral Geography

Daniel R. Montello

in Geography

ISBN: 9780199874002
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Behavioral Geography

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  • Earth Sciences and Geography
  • Human Geography



Behavioral geography is an approach to human geography that attempts to understand human activity in space, place, and environment by studying it at the disaggregate level of analysis—at the level of the individual person. Behavioral geographers analyze data on the behavior of individual people, recognizing that individuals vary from each other. A key tenet of behavioral geography holds that models of human activity and interaction can be improved by incorporating more realistic assumptions about human behavior. For example, behavioral geographers agree with other human geographers that distance (or related factors such as travel time or effort) is an important determinant of human activity, but they maintain that it is subjective rather than objective distance that is typically important. And because different people’s beliefs about distances may vary considerably from one another and from objective distance, spatial activities will be more variable and less optimal than nonbehavioral models predict. Thus, the disaggregate study of human geography naturally led behavioral researchers to consider what the individual knows or believes about the world as playing an important role in explaining what the individual does or will do—that is, people do what they do because of what they think is true. People evaluate decision alternatives according to their beliefs in order to make behavioral choices in space and place. What people think, in turn, arises from perceptual knowledge acquired via the senses, as organized and interpreted by existing beliefs and schematic knowledge structures and processes. These, in turn, are products of people’s genetic and experiential histories and are often mediated by symbolic representations such as maps and language. Behavioral geography further maintains that human-environment relations are dynamic and bidirectional: The actions and mental states of individuals cause, and are caused by, physical and social environments, within the context of ongoing and changing interactions. Because of these various interests and beliefs, behavioral geography has inherent interdisciplinary connections, particularly with various subfields of psychology, but also with other behavioral and cognitive disciplines, such as linguistics, anthropology, economics, and artificial intelligence, and environmental disciplines, such as planning, architecture, and urban studies. Given this fundamental interdisciplinarity, much of the literature cited here has been published not only within geography and cartography, but also within psychology, linguistics, computer science, and other fields.

Article.  11338 words. 

Subjects: Earth Sciences and Geography ; Human Geography

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