A. Kimball Romney
University of California, Irvine
Election Year: 1995
Primary Section: 51, Anthropology
Membership Type: Member
An important aspect of culture, the core concept of anthropology, consists of shared cognitive representations of semantic structures that reside as localized functional units in the minds of individuals. The structure of semantic domains, such as the names of colors, animals, or kinship terms, is defined as the arrangement of the terms relative to each other in a spatial model. In this space, items that are judged as more similar are placed closer to each other than items that are judged as less similar. In collaboration with colleagues we have developed techniques to measure (using multidimensional scaling and cultural consensus analysis), with known accuracy, the extent to which "pictures" or cognitive representations in the mind of one person correspond to those in the mind of another person. Our research on various semantic domains has demonstrated that typical members of a culture have virtually identical "pictures" in their minds.