Document Type


Publication Date



Does the conceptual structure of the built environment (e.g., east coast city, small town, village) differ from how we mentally represent other types of concepts (e.g., table, football, apple)? The current study investigated whether settlement-type concepts are organized similarly to object-type concepts, where features that are psychologically close or highly related to the concept are identified faster than atypical or unrelated features that are psychologically distant. Thirty-seven participants completed a property verification task where they were asked to indicate whether each statement was true or false of a concept as quickly and as accurately as possible, and their reaction time was measured. Across varying degrees of featural relatedness, decision latencies were faster when features were highly related for object-type concepts, but this same kind of organization was not found for settlement-type concepts. In fact, all settlement-type concepts showed a similar decision latency, regardless of featural relatedness. These findings suggest that concepts related to the built environment are structured differently than other kinds of concepts, and that more research is needed to understand how they are represented in the mind. These results add to the existing literature by exploring a potentially new and different kind of conceptual organization that has not been previously studied.