Review Session #1: AP Human Geography

Review Session #1: AP Human Geography

Chapter 1: Basic Concepts (Unit I: Geography: Its Nature and Perspective)

Chapter Outline

Introduction: Geography is more than rote memorization: Geographers ask where things are and why they are where they are. They use concepts of location and distribution to do so. Especially important in the study of human geography is the tension between globalization and local diversity.

Key terms introduced: Place, region, scale, space, connections.

Key Issue 1. How Do Geographers Describe Where Things Are?

Cartography is the science of making maps. Maps are used for reference (where things are located) and for communication of the distribution of some feature or features. 

Maps. Maps have been created for thousands of years, since at least the 6th century BC. Through the years maps have reflected new discoveries about places and the shape of the Earth. 

Scale is the relationship between map units and the actual distance on the Earth. Ratio or fraction scale gives the relationship as a ratio, e.g. 1:100,000 is that 1 unit on the map equals 100,000 units on the ground. In a written scale units are expressed in a convenient way, e.g. “1 centimeter equals 1 kilometer.” A graphic scale is given by a scale bar showing the distance represented on the Earth's surface. 

Maps are a planar (flat) representation of the Earth's curved surface. Thus, some distortion must result, especially at small scales (continental or whole-Earth maps). Cartographers must choose a projection that results in some set of distortions between shape, distance, relative size, and direction.

U.S. Land Ordinance of 1785: The township and range coordinate system is another mathematical means of describing location and is important to the current and historic geography of the United States.

Contemporary Geographic Tools. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) use satellites to reference locations on the ground. Remote Sensing is any technique for determining characteristics about the Earth’s surface from long distances—especially from airplanes and satellites. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are complex computer systems which store and can be used to analyze and present geographically referenced data.

Key Issue 2: Why is Each Point on Earth Unique?

Place: Unique Location of a Feature. Place names or toponyms are the most common way of describing a location. Place names sometimes reflect the cultural history of a place, and a change in place name is often culturally motivated. Examining changes in place name geography is a useful insight into the changing cultural context of a place.

Site makes reference to the physical characteristics of a place. Situation describes a place in terms of its location relative to other places. Understanding situation can help locate an unfamiliar place in terms of known places, or it can help explain the significance of a place. Mathematical location describes a place’s location using a coordinate system such as latitude and longitude. Latitude is based upon the Earth’s axis of rotation, with the Equator describing a line of latitude halfway between the poles. Longitude is culturally defined as starting at Greenwich, England and measures degrees of arc east and west of that line of longitude, or meridian.

The cultural landscape is a recurrent theme throughout this text. It represents the total sum of cultural, economic, and environmental forces combining to make distinctive landscapes across Earth.

region is an area differentiated from surrounding areas by at least one characteristic. Formal regions are regions with a predominant or universal characteristic; formal regions commonly have well-defined boundaries. Functional regions are defined by an area of use or of influence of some feature. Often used in economic geography, functional regions have “fuzzy” boundaries as the influence of the central feature decreases over distance. Vernacular regions are the most ambiguously defined as they rely on a mental conception of a place as belonging to a common region for complex cultural reasons. 

Culture is divided into “What people care about,” or beliefs, values, and customs, and “What people take care of,” or material culture. 

The first definition is covered in Chapters 5, 6, and 7, on language, religion, and ethnicity. The second is covered in Chapters 4, 10, 11, 12, and 13, especially as it relates to variation in material culture by level of development.

This chapter’s section on culture introduces the concept of more and less developed countries (MDCs and LDCs) as a fundamental partition of world regions.

There are two schools of examining human-environment relationships, or cultural ecologyEnvironmental determinism, largely dismissed by modern geographers, states that physical factors cause cultures to develop and behave as they do. Possibilism recognizes the constraints of the physical environment while also crediting human cultures with the ability to adapt to the environment in many ways—including by changing it. 

Physical processes: Climate, Vegetation, Soil, and Landforms. This section gives a brief outline of physical geography and relates it to the questions that human geographers ask about the surface of the Earth and its cultural ecology.

The final section of Key Issue 2 contrasts the case of Netherlands with southern Florida for two different cultural ecologies of environmental modification. 

Global Forces, Local Impacts: Hurricane Katrina. The Hurricane Katrina disaster still serves as an outstanding example of the value of a geographic perspective to consider the interaction of human and physical geography.

Key Issue 3: Why are Different Places Similar?

Scale: From Global to Local. Globalization of economic activities has come as a result of increasing connections between places and the rapid movement of goods and information around the world. Transnational corporations are often seen as emblematic of this globalization and many of its positive and negative effects.

Economic globalization is matched with an increasing global influence and spread of some cultures, resulting in more uniform cultural landscapes across the world. Groups with distinctive local cultures may feel threatened by the globalization of culture, causing conflict or a sense of loss.

Space: Distribution of Features. Geographers measure the arrangement of features in space as part of their study of the Earth. Densityconcentration and pattern are all measures of distribution.

Density measures the number of features per area of land. Other measures, such as physiological or agricultural density, are based on a subgroup of people or a subtype of land. Concentrationrefers to the spatial clustering or dispersion of features. Pattern describes whether features are arranged along geometric or other predictable arrangements.

Humans often arrange their activities in space along ethnic or gender divisions. Most concepts of difference among humans are culturally constructed and changes in cultural conceptions of difference are sometimes reflected in changing geographic arrangements, as when women make up an increasing percentage of the workforce.

Spatial Interaction. Some places are well-connected by communications or transportation networks, others are not as much. The shape of a network and barriers to interaction determine the level of spatial interaction.

Diffusion refers to the spread of anything from a cultural trait, people, things, or ideas from some point of origin (a hearth). Relocation diffusion is caused by the movement of people. Expansion diffusion refers to the growth of an idea to new areas through a hierarchy (hierarchical diffusion), popular notions or even contact (contagious diffusion), or the spread of an underlying idea divorced from its original context (stimulus diffusion). 

Economic activities and dominant cultures diffuse unevenly around the world as part of the process of globalization, resulting in economic inequality (uneven development).


Unit I. Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives—Basic Vocabulary and Concepts 

Basic Concepts

  • Changing attributes of place (built landscape, sequent occupance)
  • Cultural attributes (cultural landscape)
  • Density (arithmetic, physiological)
  • Diffusion (hearth, relocation, expansion, hierarchical, contagious, stimulus)
  • Dispersion/concentration (dispersed/scattered, clustered/agglomerated)
  • Distance (absolute, relative)
  • Distribution
  • Environmental determinism
  • Location (absolute, relative, site, situation, place name)
  • Pattern (linear, centralized, random)
  • Physical attributes (natural landscape)
  • Possibilism
  • Region (formal/uniform, functional/nodal, perceptual/vernacular)
  • Scale (implied degree of generalization)
  • Size
  • Spatial (of or pertaining to space on or near Earth’s surface)
  • Spatial interaction (accessibility, connectivity, network, distance decay, friction of distance, time-space compression)

Geographic Tools

  • Distortion
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Grid (North and South Poles, latitude, parallel, equator, longitude, meridian, prime meridian, international date line)
  • Map (Maps are the tool most uniquely identified with geography; the ability to use and interpret maps is an essential geographic skill.)
  • Map scale (distance on a map relative to distance on Earth)
  • Map types (thematic, statistical, cartogram, dot, choropleth, isoline)
  • Mental map
  • Model (a simplified abstraction of reality, structured to clarify causal relationships): Geographers use models (e.g., Demographic Transition, Epidemiological Transition, Gravity, Von Thünen, Weber, Stages of Growth [Rostow], Concentric Circle [Burgess], Sector [Hoyt], Multiple Nuclei, Central Place [Christaller], and so on) to explain patterns, make informed decisions, and predict future behaviors.
  • Projection
  • Remote sensing
  • Time zones

Unit I Key Terms: Geography: Its Nature and Perspectives

Key Term:


Agricultural Density

The ratio of the number of farmers to the total amount of land suitable for agriculture!

Arithmetic Density

The total number of people divided by the total land area!


An east-west line designated under the Land Ordinance of 1785 to facilitate the surveying and numbering of townships in the United States!


The science of making maps!


The extent of a feature’s spread over space


Relationships among people and objects across the barrier of space!

Contagious diffusion

The rapid, widespread diffusion of a feature or trend throughout a population!

Cultural ecology

Geographic approach that emphasizes human-environment relationship

Cultural landscape

The fashioning of a natural landscape by a cultural group?


The body of customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits that together constitute the distinct tradition of a group of people?


The frequency with which something exists within a given unit of area


The spreading of a feature or trend fromone place to another over time

Direction (absolute, relative)

Absolute- the exact coordinates to get from one place to another?
Relative- the coordinates to get to a place by using areas that are relative to that area?

Distance decay

The diminishing in importance and eventual disappearance of a phenomenon with increasing distance from its origin


A distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of an object, image, sound, waveform or other form of information or representation. This applies to Geography because of the distortion that occurs from taking a circular globe and putting it on a flat map.


The arrangement of something across Earth’s surface

Environmental determinism

A nineteenth and early twentieth century approach to the study of geography that argued that the general laws sought by human geographers could be found in the physical sciences. Geography was therefore the study of how the physical environment caused human activities.

Expansion diffusion

The spread of feature or trend among people from one area to another in a snowballing process.

Formal region

An area in which everyone share in one or more distinctive characteristics.

Functional region

An area organized around a node or focal point

Geographic information system (GIS)

A computer system that stores, organizes, analyzes, and displays geographic data

Global Positioning System (GPS)

A system that determines the precise position of something on earth througha series of satellites, tracking stations, and receivers


Actions or processes that involve the entire world and result in making something worldwide in scope

Greenwich Mean Time GMT

The time in that time zone encompassing the prime meridian or 0 longitude

Grid (latitude, longitude, etc.)

A pattern of lines on a chart or map, such as those representing latitude and longitude, which helps determine absolute location.


The region from which innovative ideas originate

Hierarchical diffusion

The spread of a feature or trend from one key person or node of authority or power to other persons or places

International date line

An arc that for the most part follows 180 degrees latitude, althoughit deviates in several places to avoiddividing land areas. When you come across the international date line heading east, the clock moves back 24 hours. When you go west (toward Asia), the calendar moves ahead one day.

Land Ordinance of 1785

A law that divided much of the United States into townships to facilitate the sale of land to settlers


The numbering system used to indicate the location of parallels drawn on a globe and measuring distance north and south of the equator (0 degrees)


The position of anything on Earth’s surface


The numbering system used to indicate the location of meridians drawn on a globe and measuring distance east and west of theprime meridian


A two-dimensional, or flat, representation of Earth’s surface or a portion of it

Map Types (thematic, statistical, choropleth, isoline, dot)

Types of maps are different ways of representing place

Mental map

A representation of a portion of earth’s surface based on what an individual knows about a place, containing personal impressions of what is in a place and where places are located


An arc drawn on a map between the North and South poles.


an abstract generalization of real-world geographies that share common pattern


A circle drawn around the globe parallel to the equator and at right angles to the meridians.

Pattern (linear, centralized, random)

The geometric or regular arrangement of something in a study area.

Physiological density

The number of people per unit of area of arable land suitable for agriculture


A specific point on Earth distinguished by a particular character.


Land created by the Dutch by draining the water from an area.


The theory that the physical environment may set limits on human actions but that people have the ability to adjust to the physical environment and choose a course of action from many alternatives

Prime meridian

The meridian, designed asdegrees longitude, that passes through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England.

Principal meridian

A north-south line designated in the Land Ordinance of 1785 to facilitate the surveying and numbering of townships in the United States.


The system used to transfer locations from Earth’s surface to a flat map.


An area on Earth’s surface that shares a common characteristic.

Regional studies

An approach to geography that emphasizes the relationships among social and physical phenomena in a particular study area.

Relocation diffusion

The spread of a feature or trend through bodily movement of people from one place to another.

Remote sensing

The acquisition of data about Earth’s surface from a satellite orbiting the planet or other long-distance methods.


A substance in the environment that is useful to people, economically and technologically feasible to access, and is socially acceptable to use.


Generally, the relationship between the portion of Earth being studied and Earth as a whole; specifically, the relationship between the size of an object on a map and the size of the actual feature on earth's surface


A square normally 1 mile one a side. The Land Ordinanceof 1785 divided townships in the United States into 36 sections.


The physical characteristic of a place.


The location of a place relative to other place. EX:(Eagle is 25 miles west of Avon)


The physical gap or interval between two objects.

Space-time compression

The reduction in the time it takes to diffuse something to a distant place as a result of improved communications and transportation systems

Spatial Interaction (accessibility, connectivity, network, distance decay, friction of distance, time-space compression)

Movements of ideas, information, money,products, and people between places

Stimulus diffusion

The spread of an underlying principle, even though a specific characteristic is rejected

Time Zones

a well-defined region extending around the earth between definite limits, especially between two parallels of latitude


The name given to a portion of the Earth’s surface


A square normally 6 miles on a side. The Land Ordinance of 1785 divided much of the United States into a series of townships

Transnational corporation

A company that conducts research, operates factories, sells products in many countries, not just where its headquarters or shareholders are located

Uneven development

The increasing gap in economic conditions between core and peripheralregions as a result of the globalization of the economy

Vernacular region

An area that people believe exists as a part of their cultural identity