Geographic Regions and Regionalization in Human Cognition

Daniel R. Montello (UC Santa Barbara)

The weekly colloquium of the Collaborative Research Centre provides a forum for presentations by external guests as well as by members of the SFB 1199 within a tailored thematic framework. The format helps to create a common ground for discussion between guests, the Collaborative Research Centre, as well as the wider academic public. The complete program can be found here.


Geographic regions are (approximately) 2-D pieces of the Earth’s surface. No two places on the Earth’s surface are identical, but by generalizing over unique characteristics, people identify contiguous sets of places that are similar to each other but dissimilar from places in other regions. Thus, regionalization is spatial categorization. Regions play an important role in the way geographers and other earth and environmental scientists organize their thinking and communication about the Earth. They also play a central role in the way laypeople think and communicate, probably including people from all times and cultures. That is, regionalization is probably cognitively and culturally universal. In this talk, Dan Montello discusses the fundamental concepts of regions and regionalization, identifying various types of regions and their properties, one of their most interesting being boundary vagueness. He focuses on the role of regional organization on spatial perception and cognition, including the nature of “cognitive regions”—regions in the mind that reflect how individuals and cultures informally organize the Earth’s surface.

The session will be held in presence, but it is also possible to access it online. To join, please click the button below.

Biographical Note

Daniel R. Montello (University of California, Santa Barbara, United States of America)

Daniel R. Montello is a Professor of Geography and an Affiliated Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where he has been on the faculty since 1992. Before that, he was Visiting Assistant Professor at North Dakota State University and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Minnesota. Dan got his Ph.D. at Arizona State University in 1988 and his B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1981. His educational background is in environmental, cognitive, and developmental psychology. Dan has authored or co-authored over 100 articles and chapters and co-authored or edited 7 books. He currently co-edits the academic journal Spatial Cognition and Computation and serves on the Editorial Boards of Environment and Behavior and the Journal of Environmental Psychology. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on behavioral and cognitive geography and GIScience, introductory human geography, research methods, statistical analysis, and the regional geography of the United States.