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Unveiling the Influences of Environment on Human Behavior: Exploring Environmental Determinism Theory

Exploring the Principles of Central Place Theory

Have you ever wondered why certain businesses thrive in specific locations, while others struggle to attract customers? The answer lies in the fascinating theory known as Central Place Theory.

Developed by German geographer Walter Christaller in the early 20th century, this theory provides insights into how human settlements are organized and the principles that govern their spatial distribution. In this article, we will delve into the two main principles of Central Place Theory: the

Threshold Principle and the

Transport Principle.

Threshold Principle

The first principle of Central Place Theory, known as the

Threshold Principle, revolves around the concept of population size, wealth, and market development. According to this principle, the number of people required to support a certain type of business or service depends on the goods or services being offered.

For example, a small village may have a threshold population of a hundred people to support a basic grocery store, while a larger city may require thousands of people to sustain a shopping mall. The threshold population is determined by factors such as the availability of resources, income levels, and consumer preferences.

As the population of a central place increases, the diversity and complexity of services offered also grow. This is because a larger population can support a wider range of businesses, such as specialized medical clinics, high-end boutiques, and gourmet restaurants.

In addition to population size, the threshold principle also takes into account the concept of wealth. As the average income of a community increases, the demand for luxury goods and services also rises.

This explains why high-end retailers and exclusive establishments are often found in affluent neighborhoods. Market development is another crucial factor in the threshold principle.

A central place with a well-developed market attracts customers from a wider area and can support more extensive and specialized businesses. This phenomenon can be observed in larger cities, where people are willing to travel longer distances to access goods and services that are not available in their immediate vicinity.

In summary, the threshold principle of Central Place Theory illuminates the relationship between population size, wealth, and market development. It helps explain why certain businesses thrive in specific locations while others struggle.

By understanding the threshold principle, urban planners and businesses can make informed decisions on where to establish new ventures and how to cater to the needs of the surrounding population.

Transport Principle

The second principle of Central Place Theory, known as the

Transport Principle, focuses on the willingness of individuals to travel to access goods and services. This principle acknowledges that people have a certain limit beyond which they are not willing to travel, known as their “range of tolerance.” The transport costs, both in terms of time and money, play a significant role in determining this range.


Transport Principle suggests that central places should be strategically located to minimize the traveling distance and costs for the majority of consumers. This ensures that people can easily access the goods and services they need, promoting economic efficiency and reducing the burden on transportation infrastructure.

To illustrate the

Transport Principle, let’s consider the example of a retail store. If a store is located too far away from potential customers, they may choose to shop at a closer competitor, even if the prices are slightly higher.

This phenomenon is known as the “law of gravitation,” wherein people are drawn towards central places that offer convenience and accessibility. Transport costs can vary depending on the mode of transportation and the geographical features of the area.

For instance, a central place located near a major highway or railway station benefits from reduced transport costs, as it becomes easily accessible for a larger number of people. On the other hand, areas with difficult terrain or poor transportation infrastructure may struggle to attract customers from a wider catchment area.

By considering the

Transport Principle, urban planners and businesses can strategically locate central places to maximize consumer access and minimize transportation costs. This not only benefits consumers but also ensures the economic viability of businesses by increasing their potential customer base.

Hexagonal Shape

Moving on from Central Place Theory, let’s now explore the intriguing geometrical models of city arrangement. One such model is based on the hexagonal shape, a widely recognized and efficient arrangement in numerous fields, including urban planning.

The hexagonal lattice is a geometric pattern consisting of regular hexagons arranged in a honeycomb-like structure. This arrangement provides several advantages in terms of space utilization and proximity.

The honeycomb conjecture, formulated by British mathematician Thomas Hales, states that the hexagonal tiling is the most efficient way to divide a plane into equal-sized regions with the least amount of perimeter. In urban planning, the hexagonal shape offers benefits in terms of road networks and infrastructure layout.

By employing a hexagonal grid, cities can achieve a balanced distribution of amenities, reduce travel distances, and optimize the use of available land. This arrangement allows for efficient transportation routes, minimizing congestion and ensuring that essential services are easily accessible to all residents.

Furthermore, the hexagonal shape allows for greater flexibility in expanding and modifying the city’s infrastructure. Unlike other shapes, such as squares or rectangles, which can limit future development possibilities, the hexagonal grid provides a modular framework that can adapt to changing urban needs.

This flexibility is particularly important in rapidly growing cities, where expanding and reconfiguring infrastructure is a constant challenge.

Triangular Shape

Another geometric model of city arrangement is based on the triangular shape. Like the hexagonal shape, the triangular lattice offers several advantages in terms of efficiency and functional organization.

The triangular lattice consists of equilateral triangles arranged in a repeating pattern. This arrangement provides a inherent stability and efficiency, as triangular shapes have only three sides and three corners, minimizing the need for complex intersection designs.

In urban planning, the triangular lattice can lead to efficient land use and facilitate the creation of attractive public spaces. The arrangement allows for easy connections between different neighborhoods and encourages walking and cycling by providing direct and convenient routes.

The triangular shape also offers architectural and design opportunities. By creating irregularly shaped plots, it allows for innovative and distinctive buildings that maximize space utilization and create visually interesting landscapes.

Moreover, the triangular lattice can be combined with other geometric shapes to create a unique and varied urban fabric. By blending triangular, hexagonal, and other shapes, urban planners can create diverse neighborhoods with their own character and identity.


In conclusion, Central Place Theory and the geometrical models of city arrangement provide valuable insights into the organization and spatial distribution of human settlements. By understanding the principles of Central Place Theory, urban planners and businesses can make informed decisions about the location and development of central places, ensuring the efficient provision of goods and services to the surrounding population.

Similarly, the adoption of geometrical models such as the hexagonal and triangular shapes can optimize land use, promote accessibility, and create visually appealing and functional urban environments. By studying these theories and models, we can gain a deeper understanding of how cities are structured and evolve, leading to more sustainable and livable urban environments.

Predicting and Observing City Patterns through the Lens of Central Place Theory

Central Place Theory, with its principles and concepts, has provided valuable insights into the organization and spatial distribution of human settlements. One of the key aspects of this theory is the ability to make predictions about the size and layout of cities based on the surrounding settlements and geographical factors.

In this section, we will explore some real-world examples that demonstrate the predictive power of Central Place Theory.

K-values and City Size

Central Place Theory introduces the concept of K-values to measure the size and importance of a central place. The K-value represents the number of lower-order settlements that would be encompassed by a higher-order central place.

For example, a city with a K-value of 3 would have three smaller towns or settlements within its influence. These lower-order settlements would, in turn, have their own K-values, creating a hierarchical structure.

By analyzing K-values, urban planners can estimate the size and population of central places and the surrounding settlements. Larger cities with higher K-values are likely to have more extensive services and amenities, while smaller towns with lower K-values may offer limited options.

Examples: Polders of Netherlands

The polders of the Netherlands provide an excellent real-world example of how Central Place Theory can be applied to urban planning. Polders are areas of land that have been reclaimed from the sea and are characterized by a network of canals and dikes.

The layout of the polders perfectly aligns with the predictions of Central Place Theory. Each polder in the Netherlands has its own central place, known as a polder town, which serves as the economic and social hub for the surrounding settlements.

These polder towns, often located at the highest point of the polder, provide essential services such as schools, healthcare facilities, and shopping centers. The size and hierarchy of these polder towns vary based on the area and population they serve.

Larger polders may have multiple polder towns, each with its own unique functions and services. The smaller settlements within the polders rely on these central places for their daily needs, creating a well-organized and efficient system of urban development.

Examples: Fens of East Anglia

The Fens of East Anglia in the United Kingdom offer another compelling example of how Central Place Theory can be observed in real-world settings. The Fens are a low-lying area that have been reclaimed from marshes and wetlands.

The layout of settlements within the Fens reflects the principles of Central Place Theory. The largest towns within the Fens, such as Cambridge and Peterborough, act as central places, providing a wide range of services and amenities.

These towns serve as regional centers, attracting residents from smaller villages and hamlets that surround them. People from the smaller settlements rely on these central places for jobs, education, healthcare, and other services not available locally.

The size and number of lower-order settlements within the Fens illustrate the hierarchical nature of urban development predicted by Central Place Theory. The larger towns have a higher K-value, encompassing smaller villages and hamlets within their economic influence.

This pattern of settlement distribution demonstrates the efficiency of Central Place Theory in predicting the spatial organization of urban areas. Examples: American Midwest

In the vast expanse of the American Midwest, Central Place Theory can also be observed in the layout of cities and towns.

The Midwest region, known for its agricultural productivity, features a hexagonal pattern of urban centers that aligns with the principles of this theory. The hexagonal pattern, derived from Central Place Theory, allows for balanced distribution and accessibility of urban centers in the Midwest.

Each central place serves as a focal point for surrounding agricultural regions, offering services, markets, and employment opportunities. By adopting a hexagonal pattern, the urban centers in the Midwest can provide economic benefits to the agricultural communities they serve.

The hexagonal structure ensures that no area is too far from an urban center, reducing transportation costs and increasing efficiency in the exchange of goods and services. Examples: Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan, a province in Canada, also demonstrates the application of Central Place Theory to urban planning.

The province has a grid-like layout, with its cities and towns strategically positioned according to a hexagonal pattern. The hexagonal pattern in Saskatchewan facilitates the efficient distribution of services and resources.

Each central place serves as a focal point, providing essential amenities to the surrounding rural communities. This arrangement allows for efficient transportation, minimizing travel distances for residents in rural areas and optimizing the utilization of infrastructure.

The hexagonal pattern also provides flexibility for expansion and growth, ensuring that the urban centers can adapt to the changing needs of the population. This flexibility is particularly important in regions like Saskatchewan, which have experienced rapid population growth and economic development.


Central Place Theory has proven to be a valuable tool in predicting and understanding the spatial organization of human settlements. By considering factors such as population size, wealth, market development, and transportation costs, this theory provides a framework for effective urban planning and resource allocation.

Real-world examples, such as the polders of the Netherlands, the Fens of East Anglia, the American Midwest, and Saskatchewan, demonstrate how Central Place Theory accurately predicts the size and layout of cities and towns. The hierarchical distribution of central places, the efficiency of transportation networks, and the adaptability of urban centers all support the validity and applicability of Central Place Theory.

As urban areas continue to evolve and grow, Central Place Theory will remain a vital tool for urban planners and policymakers. By understanding the principles and patterns it offers, we can create sustainable, efficient, and economically vibrant cities that meet the needs of their residents and surrounding communities.

Exploring Environmental Determinism Theory in Human Geography

In the realm of human geography, theories provide insights into the relationships between humans and their environment. One such theory is Environmental Determinism, which posits that the physical environment plays a significant role in shaping human behavior and society.

In this section, we will delve into the key aspects of Environmental Determinism Theory and compare it to the Central Place Theory discussed earlier.

Overview of Environmental Determinism Theory

Environmental Determinism Theory, also known as climatic determinism, was a widely accepted theory in the early twentieth century. It suggests that the physical environment, including factors such as climate, topography, and natural resources, is the primary determinant of human cultures, behaviors, and societal development.

According to this theory, certain environmental conditions inevitably lead to specific cultural and social characteristics. For example, areas with abundant natural resources may foster economic development and prosperity, while regions with harsh climates could result in more survival-oriented and less complex societies.

Historically, Environmental Determinism Theory was used to explain the perceived differences between civilizations and societies around the world. Advocates of this theory argued that the physical environment imposed limitations on human populations, shaping their cultural, intellectual, and technological advancements.

Comparison to Central Place Theory

While Environmental Determinism Theory and Central Place Theory are both prominent concepts within the field of human geography, they differ significantly in their focus and approach. Central Place Theory primarily focuses on the spatial organization and distribution of urban settlements, explaining the size, location, and hierarchy of central places based on population size, market development, and transportation costs.

In contrast, Environmental Determinism Theory centers on the relationship between humans and their environment, positing that environmental factors shape human culture, behavior, and development. It seeks to explain societal differences by attributing them to varying environmental conditions.

A notable difference between the two theories is their level of determinism. While Central Place Theory is more grounded in observable patterns and spatial organization in urban settlements, Environmental Determinism Theory implies a deterministic relationship between the environment and human development.

This deterministic perspective has drawn criticism, as it oversimplifies the complex interactions between society and the environment. Furthermore, Central Place Theory is supported by empirical evidence and has practical applications in urban planning and resource allocation.

It provides a framework for understanding the organization of human settlements and efficiently providing goods and services to populations. In contrast, Environmental Determinism Theory has fallen out of favor in recent decades as scholars recognize the limitations of this deterministic perspective.

Critics argue that it neglects the agency of human populations in adapting to and transforming their environments. It also overlooks the significant influence of social, political, and economic factors on human development, which may override the impact of environmental conditions.


Central Place Theory and Environmental Determinism Theory, while both important within the field of human geography, approach the study of human-environment relationships from different angles. Central Place Theory provides insights into the spatial organization and distribution of urban settlements, focusing on factors such as population size, market development, and transportation costs.

On the other hand, Environmental Determinism Theory emphasizes the influence of the physical environment on human behavior, culture, and societal development. While Central Place Theory is grounded in observable patterns and practical applications, Environmental Determinism Theory has been critiqued for its deterministic perspective and oversimplification of the complex interactions between society and the environment.

As our understanding of human-environment relationships continues to evolve, it is essential to critically analyze various theories and approaches in human geography. While both theories have contributed to the field, Central Place Theory remains a viable tool for urban planning and resource allocation.

Environmental Determinism Theory, on the other hand, has limitations and should be approached with caution, considering the multitude of factors that shape human societies. By recognizing the strengths and limitations of these theories, we can gain a deeper understanding of the intricate dynamics between humans and their environments.

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