Basic-level geographic categories

Robert Lloyd, David Patton, Rex Cammack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


As we experience places, we learn about those places and generalize information into more abstract geographic categories. Rosch's basic-level theory argues that information known about objects is stored in our memories in a three-layered hierarchy. Data that could be used to test this theory in a geographic context was generated by having subjects make lists of activities, characteristics, and parts associated with 11 familiar geographic categories. An analysis of the distribution of information among the geographic categories confirmed two basic predictions of Rosch's theory. Significantly more information was stored in the basic-level geographic categories country, region, state, city, and neighborhood than in the superordinate category place. Significantly more information was not stored in subordinate categories home country, home region, home state, home city, and home neighborhood. The results suggest that geographic information is efficiently stored in memory so that much of what we know about geographic space is stored in basic-level categories that are both distinctive and informative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-194
Number of pages14
JournalProfessional Geographer
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 1996


  • Basic-level theory
  • Cognitive maps
  • Geographic categories
  • Learning


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