PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2022, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (1): 16-26.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2022.01.002

• Special Column: Theories and Methods of Behavioral Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

On the unique features of behavioral geography and the potential avenues for its future research

WANG Fenglong1,2()   

  1. 1. School of Geography & The Center of Administrative Division and Spatial Governance, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
    2. The Research Center for Chinese Administrative Divisions & The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2021-09-03 Revised:2021-12-02 Online:2022-01-28 Published:2022-03-28
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42171225);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971210);Major Project of the National Social Science Foundation(21&ZD175);"Chenguang Program" Supported by the Shanghai Education Development Foundation and Shanghai Municipal Education Commission(18CG28)


Behavioral geography is an important subdiscipline of human geography. It provides innovative approach and special angles for interpreting human-environment relationship. Behavioral geography had experienced rapid development in the 1970s, which was considered an era of "behavioral movement". However, the development of behavioral geography slowed down in Western geography since the 1990s and few theoretical and methodological progresses had been made until recently. Moreover, there are some confusions about the unique features and theoretical contributions of behavioral geography within both the subdisciplines of human geography and the general "behavioral science". This situation is detrimental for researchers in other subdisciplines of geography to realize the values of behavioral geography and for the communication and consensus building among behavioral geographers. Recently, the professional committee on behavioral geography was founded in the Geographical Society of China. This provides new opportunities for the development of behavioral geography in China on the one hand, yet makes more pressing requirements for discussing the disciplinary and theoretical issues in behavioral geography on the other hand. Therefore, this article summarized four related unique features of behavioral geography and provided some referential directions for future studies. Specifically, this article argued that behavioral geography is both a subject of specific objects (environment-behavior relations) and a methodological science (behaviorism), and provides individual, subjective, and process-centered perspectives to interpret the relationship between human behaviors and geographical environment. Behavioral geographers should pay more attention to the questions related to spatial behavior and behavior-environment interaction instead of behaviorism. The models and explanations at the individual level should be extended to the group level in behavioral geography. Continuous efforts should be made to explore the mediating mechanisms of psychological processes when explaining the relationship between human behaviors and geographical environment, yet more attention should be paid to models based on subjective well-being and more robust tests of causal relation. Chinese behavioral geographers should enhance their own specialty and knowledge contribution by probing into group behaviors within collective culture and exploring more applications in behavioral geography. This article may clarify the values of behavioral geographical studies, further the theoretical debates in Chinese behavioral geography, and draw more scholarly attention to some promising directions in behavioral geography.

Key words: behavioral geography, psychology, scale, process, disciplinary uniqueness, Chinese school