The Quantitative Revolution:
Geographers, for more than two hundred years, had been confronted with the problems of generalisation and theory building.
After the Second World War, the geographers, especially those of the developed countries, realised the significance of using the mathematical language rather than using the language of literature. Consequently, the empirical descriptive geography was discarded and more stress was laid on the formulation of abstract models. The diffusion of statistical techniques in geography, to make the subject and its theories precise, is known as the Quantitative Revolution in geography.
The earliest use of quantitative techniques started in climatic studies e.g. Koeppen’s climatic classification, RR. Crowe’s The Analysis of Rainfall Probability, M.G. Kendall’s The Geographical Distribution and Crop Productivity in England, H.A. Matthew’s A New View of Some Familiar Indian Rainfall. Christaller made a major contribution to location theory, by applying quantitative techniques enormously in his study Central Places in.
Southern Germany. In other branches of geography, e.g. populations, regional, cultural and economic geography, a range of different statistical methods were gradually brought into use. Thus the diffusion of quantitative techniques took place in the 1960s which enabled the geographers to develop more refined theories and models.
Advantages of Quantitative Techniques:
(i) All the techniques are firmly based on empirical observations and are readily verifiable.
(ii) They help in reducing a multitude of observations to a manageable number of factors.
(iii) They allow the formulation of structured ideas and theories which can be tested under the assumed conditions.
(iv) They help in deriving suitable models to understand the interaction of the evolved factors and their process within the models and with reference to observed facts.
(v) They help in identifying tendencies and desired trends, laws and theoretical concepts.
Disadvantages of Quantitative Techniques:
(i) The theories and models developed on the basis of empirical data, do not take into account the normative questions like beliefs, emotions, attitudes, desires, hopes and fears and, therefore, cannot be taken as the tools explaining exact geographical realities.
(ii) The over-enthusiastic preachers have sacrificed many good qualitative statements which were quite useful.
(iii) They also demand sophisticated data which are rarely attainable outside the developed countries.
(iv) It has been found that generalisation done with the help of these techniques is bringing exaggerated results.
(v) The factorial designs depend on the use of the costly computer time and considerable financial assistance which are rarely available to the individual researcher of areal variation.
Generalisation on the basis of quantitative techniques may prove to be misleading and negative instead of positive. Apart from this, the data used is hardly for a period of about hundred years and that too reflects the modes of production and distribution of the developed societies. Thus, the Quantitative Revolution also could not enable the geographers to formulate the universal laws and paradigms.
It may be seen as a developing criticism from within the Quantitative Revolution. Behavioural geography treats man as a responder to stimuli. It seeks to identify how different individuals respond to particular stimuli (and also how the same individual responds to the same stimuli in different situations) to isolate the correlates of those varying responses to build models that can predict the probable impact of certain stimuli.
In the 1920s, the Finnish geographer Johannes Gabriel Grano and his Estonian student Edgar Kant were attempting a behavioural approach. It was Gilbert White whose thesis on human adjustments to floods was published in 1945. His associates at the University of Chicago developed a behaviourist approach for studying reactions to the natural hazards basing this on Herbert Simon’s theories of decision-making.
White found it more important to map the personal perception of the decision-maker than to describe the factual physical and economic conditions of the environment, since the decision maker would act upon his own perception and not on the environmental factors themselves.
Kates, a major exponent of the behaviourist approach, states that the way men view the ranks and opportunities of this uncertain environment plays a significant role in their management as in resource management.
Julian Wolpert, while studying the patterns of migrations, found the gravity model an inadequate representation. He stated that each individual has an action space—the set of place utilities which the individual perceives and to which he responds—whose contents may deviate considerably from that portion of the real world which it purports to represent. Wolpert’s papers heralded the development of Behavioural Geography.
The aim in behavioural geography has been to derive alternative theories to those based on the economic man. These theories are more concerned with understanding why certain activities take place father than what patterns they provide in space.
Here, the researcher uses the real world from the perspective of those individuals whose decisions affect locational or distributional pattern. The study of behavioural processes led to an increase in the geographers’ understanding of how spatial patterns evolve, thereby complementing their ability to describe such patterns.
One aspect of behavioural geography has been the concept of the mental map. Mental maps are an amalgam of information and interpretation reflecting not only what an agent knows about places but also how he or she feels about them.
Mental maps are important to the geographer not only as a means of examining an individual’s areas of spatial preference but also as an insight into the process whereby decisions are made, opportunities perceived and goals determined and satisfied. The behaviourist approach is an inductive one, with the aim being to build general statements out of observations of ongoing processes.
Pred presented an alternative to theory building based on economic man and proposed the use of a behavioural matrix to provide a framework in which locational decision-making could be analysed. Axis of behavioural matrix are quantity and quality of information available and the ability to use that information. In it, the economic man is located at the bottom right hand corner. Harvey criticised this model, finding it ambiguous, unoperational, and an oversimplification of the complex nature of behaviour.
According to Gold, the behavioural approach is based on four major assumptions:
1. The environment in which the individuals act is that which they perceive and not the real world.
2. Individuals interact with their environments, responding to them and reshaping them.
3. The focus of the study is the individual and not the group.
4. Behavioural geography is multi-disciplinary.
The behaviourist approach appears to consist of two approaches. The first is based on the study of overt behaviour using the traditional positivist formation of dependent variables, influenced by independent variables. It involves widespread application of statistical techniques. The second approach is based on the attempts to identify the mental construction that lies behind overt behaviour. Little achievement has been made in the second approach.