Naïve geography

According to research in the fields of cognitive psychology and geography, people tend to make sense of landscapes, navigate through them, and make calculations about them in a similar set of ways. I’m going to focus on the way untrained people do this without exerting too much effort. People who are experts in a field (like trained geographers) are often trained to think about the world in a different way. Some theoreticians call this usual way of interacting with landscapes “naïve geography.”

There’s a related field of study called “naïve physics,” describing how we all calculate the trajectory of an item into a trash can, how far a ball will go when we kick it, or whether something will break if we drop it from a certain height. Naïve geography describes how we constantly engage in a similar set of explanations, descriptions, and predictions with the landscapes we live in. “Naïve” in this sense means “intuitive” or “common sense,” not “showing a lack of experience.”

[[ Spatial knowledge is phenomenal ]], we know landscapes in our bodies.

Naïve geography is part of us because [[ Uses of geographic knowledge|geographic knowledge is essential for human life. ]]

Principles of naïve geographic thinking

  1. [[ The earth is flat and square ]]
  2. Maps are more real than experience
  3. Distance is measured in travel time
  4. Incomplete geographic information is fine
  5. Multiple maps at different levels of detail

See: Wayfinding for legible landscapes


Egenhofer, Max J., and David M. Mark. [[ egenhoferNaiveGeography1995|“Naive Geography.” ]] Spatial Information Theory A Theoretical Basis for GIS, edited by Andrew U. Frank and Werner Kuhn, Springer, 1995, pp. 1–15.

Hayes, Patrick J. [[ hayesSecondNaivePhysics1995|“The Second Naïve Physics Manifesto.” ]] Computation & Intelligence: Collected Readings, American Association for Artificial Intelligence, 1995, pp. 567–85.