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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Beyond the physical divide of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots: Social and political variables shape geographical estimates


Many non-geographic factors influence spatial judgments, which implies that spatial representations are not metrically veridical. We investigated the influence of social and political factors in the geopolitical context of Cyprus–an island divided since 1974 into the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in the north and south, respectively. Participants (249 Greek Cypriots, 322 Turkish Cypriots) indicated their familiarity with 19 towns, estimated town locations, and the straight-line distance between those towns. They also rated their attitudes toward the other community. Cypriots underestimated distances and contracted the placement of towns within the other community more so than within their own community. Moreover, those more willing to live together with Cypriots from the other community underestimated distances between towns, whereas those less willing to live together overestimated distances. The results support the notion that representations of global-scale environments have multi-faceted origins, including sociopolitical factors not usually associated with spatial representations.

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