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  The process whereby alternative courses of action are evaluated and a decision taken. The decision-making perspective attracted great interest after it was introduced to geography during the 1960s as part of the behavioural movement (see behavioural geography). It broadened the traditional perspectives, making them more realistic with respect to actual human practice.

The crux of the decision-making perspective is the recognition that real-world location decisions are seldom if ever optimal in the sense of maximizing profits or minimizing resources used. Similarly, consumer behaviour hardly ever accords with the rational calculus of utilities assumed in conventional economic formulations. The all-knowing and perfectly able economic man of neo-classical economics bears only slight resemblance to actual human beings.

Sub-optimal location decision-making may be incorporated into conventional location theory by the use of spatial margins to profitability (see variable cost analysis), within which some profit is possible anywhere and the business is free to locate away from the optimal (profit-maximizing) location at some pecuniary cost. However, this tells us nothing about how actual choice of location is arrived at within the economically determined constraints.

A step further was taken by Allen Pred (1967, 1969) in his concept of the behavioural matrix. According to this, decision-makers have a position in a matrix with the information available on one axis and the ability to use it on the other. The more information and the greater the ability, the higher the probability of a \'good\' location within the spatial margin, i.e. near the optimal location on cost/revenue grounds. Decision-makers with very limited ability and information are more likely to locate beyond the margins and fail, but a good location could still be chosen by chance.

Pred was greatly influenced by H.A. Simon\'s (1957) concept of satisficing behaviour, as an alternative to the unrealistic optimizing capacity attributed to \'economic man\' (sic). Decision-makers were viewed by Simon as considering only a limited number of alternatives, choosing one that is broadly satisfactory rather than optimal. Introduction of a more realistic perspective on location decision-making corresponded with a similar move in the study of business behaviour in general, within a broad context of industrial organization.

The decision-making perspective in location analysis followed two routes: theoretical and empirical. The search for a theoretical framework for studies of location behaviour under conditions of risk and uncertainty led geographers and regional scientists into such fields as game theory and organization theory. The light shed on actual decision-making was very limited, however.

An empirical approach promised more, in a field where the emphasis is so much on individual practice. There was a tradition of survey analysis in industrial location studies well before the behavioural movements penetrated the subject. Such research often revealed the importance of \'purely personal\' factors. Later, empirical research preferred to take sets of firms and examine the actual process of decision-making. Some perceived problem (such as undercapacity) sets in motion a sequence of decisions beginning with whether to expand in situ, to set up a branch or to acquire an existing plant; the sequence continues with the process of searching for a site, the evaluation of alternatives, the final decision and the feedback of the learning experience into some subsequent decision of a similar nature. This empirical approach held out the prospect of generalizations that relate the process of location decision-making to the nature of the organization concerned (cf. search behaviour).

After many years of behavioural studies of industrial location decision-making, the findings seemed to promise more than it was able to deliver. A critique was mounted by Doreen Massey (1979), who pointed to objections on epistemological grounds (see epistemology) to the practice of adopting ideal type constructs (whether \'economic man\' or some \'satisficing man\') and of making a distinction between behaviour that accords with the ideal type and that which must be attributed to other factors. Massey argued that the focus on individual decision-making distracts attention from the structural features of the economy to which firms react, and that what firms actually do with respect to the setting up or closure of plants is best understood in this broader context of political economy. There has recently been a revival of interest in aspects of location decision-making, however, including the learning process and corporate strategy with respect to restructuring. The work of Schoenberger (1997) emphasizes recognition of the significance of cultural factors in the the operation of the firm.

Other aspects of human geography in which the decision-making perspective assumed importance include response to environmental hazards (e.g. Kates, 1962), residential choice (e.g. Brown and Moore, 1970), shopping behaviour (e.g. Rushton, 1969; see also revealed preference analysis), and the decision to migrate (e.g. Wolpert, 1965). Again, neo-classical economics was originally influential, the concept of place utility being an obvious geographical extension of the theory of consumer behaviour. While qualities of place as people evaluate them do influence decisions including locational choice or movement, there are many other considerations of a fortuitous and seemingly irrational nature. Indeed, geographers can easily exaggerate the spatial element in decision-making.

More recent research involving qualitative methods has sought a more sensitive understanding of how people assign meaning to various aspects of life and how decisions follow from this. For example, the decision to seek health care, involving the coverage of distance, is influenced by culturally specific conceptions of the meaning of illness, personal and shared experience of being ill, assessment of the benefit likely to be derived from the doctor\'s advice based on past contacts, the felt need for treatment or reassurance, and so on. Such work helps to set the spatial aspects of decision-making and taking in a broader context, getting away from crude notions of human behaviour as some stimulus-response mechanism and allowing greater scope for the way meaning is interpreted and translated into action. Work in the earlier tradition is now part of the discipline\'s history rather than important to contemporary practice. (DMS)

References Brown, L.A. and Moore, E.G. 1970: The intra-urban migration process: a perspectice. Geogrrafiska Annaler 52B: 1-13. Kates, R.W. 1962: Hazard and choice perception in flood plain management. Chicago: University of Chicago, Department of Geography, Research Paper 78. Massey, D.B. 1979: A critical evaluation of industrial location theory. In F.E.I. Hamilton and G.J.R. Linge, eds, Spatial analysis, industry and the industrial environment, volume I. Industrial systems. New York and Chichester: John Wiley, 57-72. Pred, A. 1967, 1969: Behavior and localion: foundations for a geographic and dynamic location theory. Parts 1 and 2. Lund studies in geography, series B, 27 and 28. Lund: Gleerup. Rushton, G. 1969: Analysis of spatial behavior by revealed space preference. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59: 391-400. Schoenberger, E. 1997: The cultural crisis of the firm. Oxford: Blackwell. Simon, H.A. 1957: Models of man: social and rational. New York: John Wiley. Wolpert, J. 1965: Behavioral aspects of the decision to migrate. Papers [and Proceedings] of the Regional Science Association 15: 159-72.

Suggested Reading Chapman, K. and Walker, D. 1991: Industrial location: principles and policies, 2nd edn. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Hayter, R. 1997: The dynamics of industrial location. New York: John Wiley. Malmberg, A. 1997: Industrial geography: location and learning. Progress in Human Geography 21: 573-82. Smith, D.M. 1981: Industrial location: an economic geographical analysis, 2nd edn. New York: John Wiley, ch. 5. Wolpert, J. 1964. The decision process in a spatial context. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 54: 337-58.



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