Not an everyday term, for sure, but it’s something we take part in practically every day even if we don’t know it. As a brief description, they are basically a physical location or defined area that a person’s emotional or attitudinal perception of affects or alters his behavior toward. Let’s look at an example…
Consider a big highway in a large city. You have the “inside” and the “outside” of the highway; “this” side and “that” side. One is downtown; one the suburbs. Often people in the suburbs will have an unexplained aversion to going inside a loop or highway, not because of busy traffic or road constructions, but because it’s not “where they go.”
It might be that it’s “downtown” or one is a “good” part of town and the other a “bad” part. So, it’s physical (the actual highway itself) as well as psychological (mental activity about what it means to cross that physical boundary or how they see it). It’s in most business’ or community’s best interest to first discover and then vet these boundaries to be able to change perception and draw traffic or build relationships. And it is very possible with communication, directed advertising, and physical changes.
While psychogeographic barriers can be difficult to accurately identify, knowing them allows a business to attract customers that would otherwise go somewhere else.
A great example of a psychogeographic boundary happens in churches or other religious or civic organizations. How many people do you see enter a sanctuary or meeting room and march right up to the front seats? Almost never. The front row, then is a major psychogeographic boundary. But why? They’re just chairs, right?
Let’s think of some possibilities…could it be that if a family’s or individual’s attendance isn’t regular or isn’t what they might perceive as “expected?” If they take that front row, the pastor or leader might notice their absence and pass judgment on their devotion or commitment. So they want to be able to “blend in” and enjoy a bit of invisibility to keep the image they want to project in tact. Maybe they run late quite a bit, maybe they don’t feel “worthy” of the front row because they see it as a position of importance. Again, there can be dozens of perceptions, some valid, some not so valid, but perception is reality.
So the leadership of the church or organization, if they want to break down these barriers, can easily address these attitudes, bring them out into the open and ease fears by speaking to the fact that we are all valuable and appreciated and there is no “important” and “unimportant” members, or that though participation your life will be enriched, but no judgment is passed if you’re not warming a seat every time the doors are open, whatever the view might be. Or maybe change the configuration if possible to eliminate one or two “front” areas and be more of a collaborative space.
As a business or organization, send out your feelers for the psychogeographic boundaries that might be coming in to play with your customers (or would-be customers) and members. Dig down into it and find those ways to blow misperceptions out of the water open communication.