Human Spatial Behavior

Mark Baldassare

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Baldassare, M. (1). Human Spatial Behavior. Annual Review of Sociology, 4(1), 29–56.

social systems , socialization , Sociology , space , spatial behavior , spatial variables


Main finding
The utilization and availability of space have important implications for social relations and structure. Early developments in the field of human spatial behavior are first reviewed through three major perspectives: biological, cultural, and environmental. These perspectives explore, respectively, psychological reactions to spatial disorder, differences in the use of space by cultural socialization, and the effects of the environment, particularly the design of buildings, to feelings and behaviors. An anti-spatial perspective developed in response to these early perspectives, suggesting that studies of human spatial behavior are outside the framework of social science, that the evidence indicates spatial variables are unimportant in comparison to social factors, and that causal explanations of spatial phenomena are not sociologically relevant. These criticisms of the field are made largely irrelevant due to refinements in theory and methodology which provide a more sophisticated view of the interaction of spatial resources, social order, and psychological phenomena. Deterministic views have essentially vanished from, and single-variable experimental methodologies have largely been replaced with longitudinal studies, multivariate methods, the collection of data in residential settings, and the responses of subgroups who differ in personal, social, and spatial dimensions. Recent developments in the study of spatial behavior are reviewed through five orientations: concerns for the individual’s spatial perceptions, stimulus overload, personal control and social control, roles and symbolic meanings, and equilibrium theories. The largest research topic within the recent studies is the effects of overcrowding. The author argues that these developments in the field should give it more merit among sociologists.

Description of method used in the article
This article reviews both early and recent developments in the study of human spatial behavior.

Theoretically interesting

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