The Atlantic – Cities:
One of the charms of Europe is the irregular geography of its city streets. Meanwhile across the Atlantic many major American cities follow a fairly rigid (albeit intuitive) grid system. The local differences echo the broader approaches to land division there and here. While many boundaries in the Old World conform to the curves of nature, places in the United States generally follow a rectangular system imposed, in large part, by the Public Land Survey.
It stands to reason that these different environments would leave distinct impressions on their respective residents. If the place you live in looks like a map, logic suggests you’ll start to discuss it like one. Likewise, if the place you live in has a unique layout, you’ll need more precise identifiers to describe it.
That’s the idea at the heart of a study set to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology. An international team of psychologists, led by Alycia Hund of Illinois State University, recruited students from the Midwest United States and the Netherlands to give directions around a fictional neighborhood. The results suggest that the “structure of the physical environment also shapes wayfinding processes,” Hund and company report.
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