Culture and Cognition

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Implications for Theory
and Method
Norbert Ross

'Tire subject matter is very timely for such
hand, most cognitive research in
a book. The field of culture and cognition is
psychology either ignores culture as an
in a state of considerable jl11x, and it
important factor to be taken into account
requires the kind of knmvledge tlrat Ross
or treats culture as yet another
has twt only of cognitive anthropology but
independent variable.
of cognitive
w make a
synthesis and to develop guideposts and
Recent trends indicate an increasing
steer dre field cowards viable future
interest in *culture# as a topic of
objectives. R.oss possesses complete
psychological inquiry. Culture &(
farniliwity with Ute literature .... This
Cognition: Implications for Theory
should make for an excellent contribution."
and Method combines the study of
-Douglas White
culture with an understanding of relevant
Department of Anthropology
cognitive processes and the challenge of
University of Califomia, Irvine
studying high-level cognition as
embedded into culture. Author Norbett
Norbe11 Ross is a fine sclwlar, and the
Ross engages boU1 anU1ropology and
book docs something useful and new ....
psychology, with the belief U1at <my
an important contribution by a respected
successful research in culture and
researclrcr I'VIw knows what Ire is talking
cognition must embrace insights from
about and who has done creative basic
both fields.
work i11 tllefield."
Roy D'Andrade Culture &(Cognition fills a void in U1e
Department of Antlrropolozy
cross-disciplinary area of culture and
University of Califomia, San Diego
cognition by offering a clear overview of
approaches from varying disciplinaty
11[11 view of a current trend to integrate
perspectives, discussing methodological
knmvlcdgc re 'culture' and 'cognition' in
problems as well as theoretical
psychology and anthropology, there is a
implications of these approaches. The
growing demand for good textbooks i11
author illustrates real researd1 examples
these fields. The ideas proposed by Ross
and discusses a specific research strategy
arc interesting and potentially productive."
that details the necessary methods of data
-Chizuko Izawa
gatheting and analy5is methods for
Department of Psychology
understanding cross cultural differences.
Tulane University
The book establishes the foundation tor
sensible cultural and cross-cultural
Culture plays an important role in our
research and provides impmtant insights
everyday lives, yet the study of cultural
into boU1 cultural processes in cognition
processes and their impact on thinking
and cognitive aspects of culture.
and behavior is still in its infanLy.
Research in anthropology generally lacks
Recommended lor advanced
the clarity and specificity of cognitive
undergraduate and graduate students,
processes and is therefore usually ignored
scholars, and researchers in the fields of
by most psychologists. On the other
Psychology and Anthropology.
Visit our website at
ISBN 0-7619-2907-X
($)SAGE Publications
International Educational and Professional Publisher 9 II I IIIII
780761 1111111111111
929079 111
Thousand Oaks
* London * New Delhi

This book is dedicated to the memory of
Thomas Schweizer, whom I appreciated not only
as a colleague, but also as the warm human being he was.

Implications for Theory
and Method
Norbert Ross
Vanderbilt University

Copyright (c) 2004 by Sage Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form
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Library of Congress Cataloging*in*Publication Data
Ross, Norbert.
Culture and cognition : implications for theory and method I by Norbert Ross.
p. em.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0*7619*2906*1 - ISBN 0*7619*2907*X (paper)
1. Cognition and culture. I. Title.
BF3 1 1 .R6542 2004
This book is printed on acid*free paper.
03 04 OS 06 07 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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Jim Brace*Thompson
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Cover Designer:
Janet Foulger

1. Culture and Cognition: Ethnography of the
Mind-A Cognitive Approach to Culture
2. Cultural Studies and Comparative Design
The Logic of Cultural Studies
Cross-Cultural Studies and Comparative Design
3. Toward a Cognitive Theory of Culture
The Problem With Culture, Folk Beliefs,
Scientific Concepts, and Their (Ab-)Use
The Authenticity Crisis of Cultural Concepts:
Cultural Differences and Different Cultures
Culture as Socially Transmitted Models
Toward a Cognitive Theory of Culture
Ecological Knowledge Among
Menominee Native Americans and
U.S. Majority Culture Fish Experts
The Sharing of Culture and the
Exploration of Cultural Differences
Public and Private Culture : The Em ergence of
Shared Meaning
4. Research Methods: Data Gathering
The Experimental Design
Selection of Informants and Sample Size
Presentation of Stimuli
Scientific Methods and the Role of
Participant Observation

Research Design and Field Methods
Experimental Methods in the Field: Data Collection
Free Listing, Saliency, and the Definition
of Domains
Question Answer Frames, True/False Questions,
and Sentence Frame Techniques
Triad Comparison
Pile Sorting: The Hierarchical Sorting
of Elements
Rating Tasks
Eliciting Relationships Between
the Elements
Induction and Reasoning Tasks
Property Projection Task
Category-Based Reasoning
Cognition and Observational Studies
Social Network Analysis and Informant Agreement
The Network Perspective
Social Network Concepts and Eliciting Methods
5. Patterns of Informant Agreement: Some
Analytical Implications
Informant Agreement/Disagreement
The Basic Analysis
Correlational Agreement Analysis
The Weighted Similarity Measure
Adjustment for Guessing
Agreement Pattern and Residual Analysis
Cultural Consens us and Informant Agreement
Informant Competence and Residual Analysis
6. Combining Strengths: Toward a New Science of Culture
Schemata, Cultural Models, and Consensus
A New Ethnography and an Enhanced
Cognitive Science
Author Index
Subject Index
About the Author

This boo
accuse k will
me of have many opponents.
introducing flaws into Experimental
aspects of
design and supporting an approach that lacks the necessary rigor to provide
meaningful results. By the same token, many psychologists will question the
need and virtue of studying nonstandard populations (non "undergraduate
Trained as an anthropologist, I tended to think that by defending their posi
tions psychologists tried to maintain the status quo of their research, a highly
time-efficient (and comfortable) research setting, where student subjects are
forced to participate in studies, often run by their student colleagues.
By now I have come to think of an additional reason for this choice. Many
cognitive psychologists still do not regard culture and social processes as of
any interest for an understanding of processes in high-level cognition. While
I have no sympathy with researchers who try only to maintain their research
settings intact, I hope that this book will be read by more inquisitive minds in
cognitive psychology and maybe even interest them in the topic.
Obviously, the approach proposed in this book also differs significantly
from the more traditional anthropological approach of studying people
from different cultures in their normal day-to -day context. While anthro
pologists will agree with my quest to abandon the study of undergraduate
students, many will reject the idea of introducing formal experimental
methods and statistical models into the field. Again, I hope their opposition
does not prevent them from engaging with my arguments. I hope they will
ag ree with me about the dire need to develop methodologies that allow us
a better understanding, combined with more detailed theories about human
culture, human thought, and human behavior.
In a sense, then, this book attempts to chart some middle ground between
the two fields of inquiry, trying to unite the different perspectives of two aca
demic disciplines that should never have been separated in the first place.
-Norbert Ross

This of book
my is the fruit
academic of many peoples'
development. The ideas and
manuscript influences
written the course
while I was
a postdoctoral researcher and later an assistant research professor at
Northwestern University. Here I learned many of the skills and problems of
cognitive psychology and had plenty of time to discuss my ideas with col
leagues, both graduate students and faculty. Most of the ideas presented in
this book are, therefore, not to be seen as a reflection of my individual
achievement. Instead they represent a mirror of my intellectual development
within a very encouraging academic environment.
I tried to give credit to this fact by citing as much as possible of the work
that was developed within a team effort to understand folk biology and
both the cultural aspects of cognition and the cognitive aspects of culture.
Still, it is hard to account for the many nights of discussion and hours of
ad vice that I shared in the Peten (Guatemala) or central Wisconsin with
Douglas Medin and Scott Atran. Especially, Douglas Medin helped the
shaping of many of my thoughts, although I know that he will not agree
with everything said in this book. I also want to thank Professor Ulrich
Kohler for steering me toward this topic. I know he probably expected a
very different book, but once more he took on the task of guiding me on
my detours, making sure that I didn't lose track on the way.
Finally, I want to thank my family. As on previous occasions, they
allowed me the extravagance of writing a book, using time that should have
been thei rs.

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