Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology

Cognitive Anthropology has played a major role in many cross-disciplinary efforts.  Why might that be the case?
What role does “Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology” play in today’s world?
-Harold C. Conklin, “Hanunóo Color Categories” (1955)
-Stephen A. Tyler, “Introduction to Cognitive Anthropology” (1969)
– Claudia Strauss. “What makes Tony run: Schemas as motives reconsidered” (1992)

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  • Inconditus alio  On March 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Indeed cognitive anthropology looks at the relation between culture/society and its thought processes. This in turn frees up the patterned and often times conformist way of thinking about civilization. It is an internal view, the emic view if you will tells more about the culture to the person than the anthropologist views concerning said “studied” person. It doesn’t focus on a set guideline to study but relies on what is socially acceptable in any situation depending on culture. This could be very useful for advertisements, prediction/propaganda, T.V. ratings, etc… Ones train of thought, if known, can be directed. Furthermore cognitive anthropology can’t determine some ones thoughts but if a high enough social percentage is reached it is like betting on a “sure horse” to come in.

  • Patricia  On March 29, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I found Conklin’s article, Hanunoo Color Categories, to be fascinating. Colors are not just determined by “their color”, but by a process that acts on two levels through chromatic differentiation. The darker colors seem to be more valuable such as indigo. And green, which is the color green that surrounds them in their environment, is the least valued.

    So a color is not just a color, but has a value in the community. Sharpness of a color is also valued. It is also interesting to me that colors also differ in the vocabulary of men and women.

    As I read this article, I was remined of how I learned the many variations of colors we use in our society, and that was through a huge box of Crayola Crayons that I had as a child. I think there were about 78 colors in the box.

    How much simpler it was for me to learn the colors we use in our society than for a Hanunoo child to learn colors in her society.

  • Patricia  On March 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm


    Ethnosciene and cognitive anthropology brought about many new and exciting ways to look at people, their languages, and their cultures and was crucial to the development of the postmodernist thinking in the 1980s.

  • Merrily Mccarthy  On April 1, 2009 at 7:14 am

    When theory gets easier I am certain I will be one of the first to take note of that! Right now I am in a battle to understand the knowledge given to us that everyone else finds so very easy to interpret. so maybe when you all get it, you can explain it to me.

    I am still on who is Stephen Tyler and understanding that cognitive anthropology is a new theoretical orientation.

    I do like this: “cultures are cognitive organizations of their material phenomena.” so this means to me that what I collect or have made or have around me is a reflecting of my culture or me in as much as my culture is me.’ Is that Right?

    But then that does not tell how people think about their own culture. But that seems like a circular agrument. If I start with nothing, invent something useful or just make an object and find something to do with it, then that is a representation of me as a human, or as a whole unit that is part of a greater whole of humanity, or more specifically, my culture. In 2009, I have a refrigerator to cool my food. So that makes me a fairly complicated individual, to someone who still sticks their feet in the river to make them feel better. (But I do that to. But I use a refrigerator for my ice cream! And that makes me more knowledgeable? But I did not invent the refrigerator. It was a given item that was around me when I was born. That says something about my thinking ancestors who were much smarter than me because they recognized a need and later on after I was born, I did not have to bother with keeping my ice cream frozen or eaten quickly…well if we had no thoughts of frozen things, we would have no concept of refrigeration. So does that means the Eskimos, the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Russians, and the Far North Canadians have something to do with the invention of the refrigerator that has impacted all of knowledge of culture to date and in the past, of those items that we need to preserve by freezing….so all cultures are defined by their material phenomena, but much material phenomena has a life of its own, that had a complex origination and then traveled from culture to culture. So if we are as Stephen Tyler claims, “cultures are cognitive organizations of their material phenomena” we must pick apart our material links and when we do this, at least by my modern calculations, we are united all across the board by common material goods, properties, and phenomena. We can all be linked by one food: fish, or one element: air, or one need: shelter. And scores of many other common material phenomena.

    Some cultures only use one of something, and other things we all use. So cognitive anthropology answers what important things does a culture use and how do they organize it…however what happens when we all use the same things…like cows, horses and pigs….or generally the English term, livestock. Then what? We all use water…so we are of the same culture? We all are composed of more things similar than of things different. Transportation!!! We can not live without it, in 2009, and throughout civilization of cultures the importance and duplication of the common wheel has tremendous significance. But other than the inventor of said wheel, it has held significant importance in every culture…it is the potters wheel, the plate, the bowl, and the shape of the head. but if you do not have a wheel and a second wheel with a seat between, then you are not of the same culture. Please bear that phenomena in mind. and please tell me what you think…is it cognitive anthropology, or just cognitive or just anthropology?

  • Jessica  On April 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    People do not claasify objects by checking off a mental list of essential features. Instead, we refer to a general mental prototype. It is not a carbon copy of what we experience. Apples are red, round, and have stems. A child will call an object that is green, round, and without a stem an apple because it is like an apple, not because it matches a list of traits.
    It is now understood that much knowledge is nonlinguistic. When someone is thinking, one element does not follow another in a linear sequence. The speed and efficiency with which we process information and perfom tasks shows that are thoughts are nonsequential. Knowledge is linked, networked, and distributed by processing units that work like neurons. These units are connected and work simultaneously. The mind is more efficient than any computer. We can react quickly without much thought, or slowly think through the situation.

  • Jessica  On April 1, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    People do not classify objects by checking off a mental list of essential features. Instead, we refer to a general mental prototype. It is not a carbon copy of what we experience. Apples are red, round, and have stems. A child will call an object that is green, round, and without a stem an apple because it is like an apple, not because it matches a list of traits.
    It is now understood that much knowledge is nonlinguistic. When someone is thinking, one element does not follow another in a linear sequence. The speed and efficiency with which we process information and perform tasks shows that our thoughts are nonsequential. Knowledge is linked, networked, and distributed by processing units that work like neurons. These units are connected and work simultaneously. The mind is more efficient than any computer. We can react quickly without much thought, or slowly think through the situation.

  • Selena Farnesi  On April 1, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Cognitive anthropology attempts to connect culture and thought, its theories reflect how people make sense of things in their environment and in their culture through categorization. We saw in Conklin’s article, Hanunoo Color Categories, how different cultures will relate to and categorize colors differently. We also know this is true of words, numbers, and calendars. I wonder if it can be applied to life cycles. After all, the process of becoming an adult is full of changes that we categorize.

    In America the common categories for life-span development are child, adolescences, emerging adult hood and adulthood. The child category refers to some who is not yet a teenager and has not dealt with the changes associated with adolescences such as sexual development, hormones, emotional decision making, etc. Emerging adulthood, a category arguably new to American Life-Span Development terminology, refers to college age students who are adult like in some ways but not in others. Perhaps they live on their own and take care of themselves but are still financially supported by their parents. Finally adulthood is when an individual has finally become and adult in all aspects of the term.

    These categories have been adapted to match our cultural beliefs as to when we accomplish certain life tasks, like completing educations, moving out, and starting our own families. Even though children across the world may develop biologically at the same rate as American teens their cultures use different categories to assess their development. For example, Quinceneras and Bar Mitzvahs are examples of traditional practices that mark the adult category in an individual’s life and in some cultures a woman is considered an adult as early as her first period.
    I realize that categories for development are not as clear cut as things like colors, words, numbers or calendars, but I would contend that these sorts of categories are still relevant to cognitive anthropology as they directly reflect a connection between culture and thought – in this example the cultural categories and practices that mark when an individual is thought of as an adult.

  • Erin  On April 1, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    In one of the articles about ethnoscience, I honestly don’t remember which one, the author said something along the lines that humans name things to organize chaos. This idea really caught my eye, and my mind kept drifting to it. Perhaps it is because I name things. My car, my computer, my desk chair, ceiling tiles, but perhaps it was the idea of ordering chaos. I actually brought the idea up last night as we, my little and my grand little and myself, were driving to In-and-Out, because my grand little was asking how my car got its name, and I then proceeded to tell them about this idea I’d read about for my anthro class, we proceeded to talk about aliens…

    Naming things, however, really is organizing chaos. For example I remember lying in the health center at my boarding school. The walls were white, the ceiling was white, and there was no decoration to speak of. I was staring at the ceiling, just a large white board made up of square blocks, with random designs in them, simply a ceiling made up of chaos. But, slowly as my boredom increased and I began to first count the tiles and then name each individual tile, the ceiling began to become organized, to perhaps in some way have a purpose, because of the names I was giving it. That square 3 from the left and 2 from the bottom right was no longer just a square, it was Fred, it now had identity.

    But what is even more interesting, is what naming things says about me, and how I view the world, just like how the way various cultures name things, shows us something about their world. Fred is one of the first names that comes to me anythime I have to name something, I didn’t name the tiles randomly, but in order, starting in the bottom corner, working up and then back down. I gave them people names. Some of my friends, however, might have named them using the names of various types of make-up. Eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, oh and that one over there is blush. Obvisouly how she views the world is a little different than the way I do.

  • Felicia Salcido  On April 2, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Cognitive anthropology is important, and it’s important because it describes what is socially and culturally expected. If we all ran outside and said “I have spaghetti growing out of my head” instead of saying hair, I’m pretty sure some of us will get a few stares. Anyway, the point is that everybody in the world organizes his or her own culture. Yes spaghetti and hair both have the possibility of being long and stringy, but we have acquired enough information about the world and processed that information to know that it is culturally expected or appropriate to say that the correct term is hair not spaghetti that grows out of ones head. How does this play in the world today? Well I’ll tell you one thing, that’s hair growing out of MY head, so therefore I am socially and culturally accepted.
    To write it out more formally, “cognitive anthropology not only focuses on discovering how different peoples organize culture but also how they utilize culture. It does not claim to predict human behavior but attempts to describe what is socially and culturally expected or appropriate in given situations, circumstances and contexts.” This is why cognitive anthropology has played a major role in many cross-disciplinary efforts, because it is important to take note and understand how culture is being utilized before taking the next step.

  • Merrily Mccarthy  On April 2, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Hopefully some of you will read this before class today and print it off, so you will have foreknowledge of the GAME. My game is called GOBLETS OF LIFE and it is constructed for todays presentations by James and myself during our evening class with Professor Mullooly.



    The Players:
    1.) The Class
    2.) The Scribe
    3.) The Director

    The objective is to explain Cognitive Anthropology according to a set formula.

    The Materials

    1.) One Goblet Of Life is filled with seashells and small rocks.
    2.) One Goblet Of Life is filled with round machined marbles and smooth polished stones.

    #1 ) represents the Natural (past).
    #2) represents the formal (modern).

    Individuals choose:
    1.) Their country of origin
    2.) Their culture within the country.

    Each individual is given 2 minutes to speak at the Goblets Of Life to speak on, (after naming their country and their culture) an object drawn from a Goblet of Life, one from the “natural and one from the formal.” The individual is to DESCRIBE what each object is and the symbolic representation it has for their culture of origin.

    The OBJECT is to answer 2 questions about COGNITIVE ANTHROPOLOGY…

    1.) What material phenomena is significant for the people
    of your culture?
    2.) How do the people of your culture organize these

    The Scribe is assigned the duty of systematically organizing and recording the information on the chalkboard.

    (Note: The seashells represent natural phenomena but use your imagination – they can be anything. The marbles – the same explanation. )

    Have fun with our game Goblets Of Life tonight. See you in class. Please print this off or bring copies for those who have not.

    Merrily and (James).

  • Inconditus alio  On April 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Thinking again about cognitive anthropology I am less and less impressed with it for a number of reasons.
    1. It is determined by the linguistics a person (interviewer & interviewee) uses.
    2. Are there only 3 ways in which we make schema?
    3. Don’t we get some breadwinner schema from ideologies? (Like the male is the usual breadwinner in western society)
    4. Do people in the same culture follow these goals the same way, or do they all have something in common for their personal schema (i.e. schooling)

    These are just a few things that need to be cleared up methinks for cognitive anthropology to make good their models.

  • Mark  On April 2, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Cognitive Anthropology has played a major role in many cross-disciplinary efforts. Why might that be the case?
    What role does “Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology” play in today’s world?

    A prime example of Cognitive Anthro in application would be color theory in reference to stage craft and television.

    Blue=calm, sad, depression etc
    red=anger, anxiety, fear
    green=calm (again), natural, new
    black=stained, evil, loss, sadness

    The next time you go to a play, try to take notice of these elements. The backdrops, the clothing worn by the actors/actresses, and even the lights being used are all intentional. Even in movies. Another example of this is Star Wars. Anikin starts out really light in color/complexion, and as he progresses deeper into “the darkside” the colors of his clothing changes to visually project to the viewer that he is “evil, bad, dark, etc”

    This classification of color is similar to how the Hanunoo relate wet to green other lighter colors, and dry to brown and other darker colors. The understanding that color or the perception of color causes some sort of emotional reaction in the mind plays a major roll in other areas of study. Example in Psychology, although they’re not using color in this example, by the use of inkblots can further understand the mind of their patients (or so they say o.o)

  • KateK  On April 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    A Shakespeare quote comes to mind. I believe that it is something like There is no evil or good in this world but thinking makes it so. our thought process are really important to culture because controls how we preseve the world. But then one could also argue that it is culture and not our mind that shapes our view of the world. It’s all very circular thinking and the jury is still out for me. However cognitive anthropology does have some points.

    The experiments of the colors and how we define those colors in our world is very interesting. The fact that because we have no color category for a certain color and the problems we have putting that color into a category. The theory that culture is in our minds and then becomes material and behavioral is facinating to be. But I”m still skeptical.

  • Josh AKA "Marky Mark"  On April 2, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Mark seems to have these fantasies about colors having meanings. HAH! I spit on this.

    I can use the tv show LOST to exemplify his wrongness.

    Blue= Water… lots of water, no escape, crashing waves, storms at sea, oh no were never going to escape, WHERES A BOAT!?!?!
    Red=ok… Anger anxiety fear… BUT!
    Green= Jungle… danger around every turn. No one has any weed so we can’t chill. The Others keep pickin us off from every angle. IF only they didn’t blend in with this maddening green, AHHHH!!!
    White= Everything keeps going white in a continuous flash, and we keep jumping through time, and my nose keeps bleeding because its messing with my body, and I might die! And Im LOST still.
    Black= Its dark… too dark… the Others are probably still in the bushes. I swear, if it isn’t the frickin green then its the black they hide in and I’m still lost.

    As you can see, all colors are really anger, anxiety and fear. Where does mark get off making red significant in this way?

    Maybe its cognitive anthropologists at work. Their the ones telling us that our culture makes us perceive these things the way we do. Who are they to tell us what to think. Fight the revolution with me. Watch more LOST.

  • Elfego Franco  On April 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I don’t even know how to begin my comment. I don’t think that people in the same culture perceive the world around them as the collective does. There may be some common categorizations as illustrated by Tyler. But it all depends on what they perceive as significant and how they organize it. As he states in his article, “Not only do cultures differ among one another in their organization of material phenomena, they differ as well in the kinds of material phenomena they organize.”
    I can see where misinterpretations of a culture foreign to an anthropologist can occur. Cognitive anthropology can help to understand the how and why a culture functions.

  • Joy  On April 2, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I think that Cognitive Anthropology is interdisciplinary inherently because it takes into account culture (the focus of Anthropology) and its connection to though processes (the focus of Psychology) and it does this through the medium of language (the focus os Linguistics). Therefore, any good account of Cognitive Anthropology should use the tools and understandings of each discipline to understand and unite.
    On another note, it is important to note that recent studies have shown that, though perception of color across cultures can vary somewhat, it cannot vary without constraint. Therefore, color space is not divided up completely arbitrarily within a language. There are certain constraints that are still being discussed (evolutionary benefits of color vision, the physiological sensation of color waves within Rods and Cones etc).

  • brandi  On April 2, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    The reason why cognitive anthropology is a major factor in several fields is because its focus is on accuracy and clarity. The intent is to relate information about a culture without personal bias interfering. Like Joy stated it uses psychology and linguistics in order to achieve its neutrality.

  • Mark  On April 2, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    To Josh,
    OH! Its onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

  • Madoka  On March 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Cognitive anthropology is a method within cultural anthropology to explain patterns of cultural innovation and transmission over time and space. It uses methods and theories of the behavioral sciences often are useful and relevant for historians, ethnographers, archaeologists, linguists, and musicologists. This subject is concerned with what people know and how that implicit knowledge changes the way people perceive and relate to the world around them. An example is linguistics, as related to cognitive anthropology, is a tool using language to study cognition. The general goal is to break language down to find commonalities in different cultures and how people perceive the world. Ethnoscience has enhanced our human history and of the local communities. Many students feel that science is boring because they believe learning science in the class room is not the same as learning it in the real world. On the other hand, the ethnosciences have been useful for human culture, passed on from elders to the young through apprenticeship, or on-the-job training. It becomes efficient for all human beings.

  • Megan Scholl  On March 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

    The reason ethnoscience and cognitive anthropology was and is still so important is because it allows us to have a more unbiased view of societies and cultures. Before ethnoscience (what the book calls the “new ethnography”) came around, anthropologists studied cultures in a more biased way due to the fact that they came in and forced “Western conceptual classifications on data” as the textbook also states. In using ethnoscience, anthropologists are able to put themselves into the shoes of those in a different culture, so to speak. It’s important in that it gives them the view of what that culture is like from within the culture, rather than from outside it. Studying cultures in this way is important because the data will come back unbiased (or less biased, at least). If you’re studying a culture as an outsider it’s easy to judge them. If you’re studying the same culture by perceiving that culture the way its own members do, you’ll have more accurate and reliable data.

  • Pirate Kim (Jill)  On March 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Ethnoscience classifies objects within every given culture, but how we classify these objects is dependent upon that culture and the language they use to classify the objects. Conklin’s article used this concept in the study of color within this culture by identifying the language used to interpret color classification, which in turn influences classification. I don’t know if this is really quite accurate in that every culture uses different forms of speech to identify something within their environment. It can range from a slang or based on the concept they have of the object based on their cultures perspective. Maybe I am way off here. Cognitive Anthropology can be used in psychology, cultural studies, and ethnography to name just a few, but not sure if the techniques are sound enough. The roles it plays in our time involves looking at the relationships between culture and society and its various thought processes. Models are used to describe the natural world by used of linguistics for one. In this respect we describe what is socially and culturally expected of us.

  • CorTney Parson  On March 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Ethnosicence allows there to be more of an open understanding of anthropology because it categorizes it into many different categories. ethnoscience in my opinion seems to be more of a modern version of anthropology today as opposed to how anthropology was when it was first introduced. i would even go so far as to say that ethnosicence in a sense makes anthropology more interesting to study because of how it is classified and how it defines culture.

  • Adrianna Salinas  On March 24, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Cognitive anthropology focuses on how culture has an effect on human thought. Anthropologists who focus on this discipline study how people organize their culture and use it. Culture is thought to be driven by mental cognition rather than material motivations. Strauss believes that although material want may influence a person’s decision, it is the mental schema that is ultimately the deciding force for that decision. A cognitive anthropologist cannot predict human behavior, but they can outline what is culturally expected for certain situations. Most of their research is done through fieldwork and interviews. I don’t know if this type of method would be a reliable tool for understanding different cultures. Essentially the anthropologist is making an assumption or an educated guess about the type of response they think a person may have based on interviews. In Strauss’ case not all of her interviewees shared the same outlook, even though their lives were very similar to one another. It is kind of tricky to think that one can think like the culture they are studying based on a some interviews.

  • pao kue  On March 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

    In a way, ethnoscience and cognitive anthropology represents to the term “participant observation” of cultural anthropology. Participation observation is the concept in which, to understand another culture, one has to live among the culture being study and conduct their research from a different point of view. For example, an anthropologist from the US, if he/she is introduce to a different group of people of a different culture, to understand that culture the anthropologist cannot conduct his/her research from a western point of view. He/she has to set aside his/her cultural views and begin to accept the traditions of the culture he/she is studying. For instance, killing seals, dogs, and guinea pigs for food becomes a big issue for us, but from another culture’s point of view it is merely a way of getting food.
    Another fine example is Harold C. Conklin’s “Hanunóo Color Categories”, where he conducts his research towards the color categorization of the Hanunoo. Apparently, the Hanunoo’s value in colors differs from our own—they value darker colors over lighter ones. And the darker the colors of shells and rocks become more valuable. To the outsider, it is assumable that the Hanunoo’s way of categorizing their colors is confusing since our culture pays little respect to colors and pays more attention to fabrics, texture, etc. Conklin, towards the end of his article, admits that the Hanunoo culture cannot be easily understood by outside cultures, and that one has to look at the Hanunoo culture from within it.

    I have to admit that throughout all the articles I have read so far, Conklin’s “Hanunoo Color Categories” have been my favorite. It is simple and easier to understand.

  • Jason McClung  On March 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I can agree with the idea that language siphons how a society thinks about the world. While an urban legend, the saying that Inuits have anywhere from tens to hundreds of words to refer to ice, but one to refer to love, personifies this idea.

    I like Kim-Jill’s idea about the color wheel; us laymen who only know ROY G. BIV see only 7 or 8 colors, while my Evil Sister can detect the different between mauve and chartreuse possesses a (one could argue) more complete idea of the world.

    The question is: is this a more “true” idea compared to other cultures? Social Darwinism dictated that one culture is “better” than another, but in the light of relativism this ordinary system seems defunct. Truth be told, I’m in a state of categorical nuclear holocaust.

    Regardless, the “in their shoes” ideas mentioned in this thread have been exceptionally good for Anthropology in general.

    – Jason

  • Patrick Stumpf  On March 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    To me, the relativism that ethnoscience offers can be very tempting. Taking an emic perspective does can be very attractive, but relying upon language and linguistics seems to be highly variable and dangerous. I believe that ethnoscience does offer some semblance of scientific value, since the anthropologist’s findings could be reproduced. This is why it is so popular.

  • Miranda  On March 25, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    So, basically, ethnoscience is similar to Boas because of the huge emphasis placed on cultural relativism, even though that was potentially problmatic because it made it difficult to compare cross culturally. So then the solution came in the 1960’s when people thought “hey, let’s try cognitive anthro”. (Not a bad idea right?) That whole idea with the schemas though, I actually believe it makes more sense than checking off the list of traits. Similar in a way to the phrase “get the gist of what [I’m] saying.” We have an idea of whatever “it” is referring to, based on past experiences or verbal learning.
    In the color classification of the Hanunoo, it demonstrated how people organize thoughts or interpretations largely based on their language and vocabulary. Similar to how some of us (particularly females) can recognize the difference between different colors in clothes that may not be noticeable by others (ie. salmon and pink, periwinkle and tanzanite or what have you.)
    In a way it makes you question just how well you know how you see things in relation to others…

  • sacredharpsinger  On March 26, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I feel that on some level, this discipline is responsible for cementing cultural relativism into cultural anthropology. Not that is wasn’t there before, as the introduction asserts that it has roots in Boasian historical particularism and in other areas of thought. But here, I see Ethnoscience as saying “You cannot do anthropology without acknowledging that groups of people are going to be different, and reductionist methods for cross-cultural comparison don’t do justice.

    But because anthropology is a comparative discipline, Ethnoscience can not be the ultimate truth. as it’s critics asserted, if you isolate culture too much then you are left with a collection of dead-end discourses of “isn’t that interesting”.

    Cognitive anthropology, to me, almost seems more of a psychological cameo than a part of the anthropological theory. Hearing about the things this discipline focused on (schemata, connectivism) sounds so much like the studies and experiments important to my friends in the cognitive psychology department.

    But hearing about the methodology of informant interview sounds so remenicent of Rabinow from last semester. Every chapter was about learning from one person and trying to dicern about the whole. This ethnoscience method it is both valid and limited as it places emphasis on the people operating within the culture and not the observer looking at it, but falls a little short because the validity of the informant is not sound (not questioning them in a malicisous way, just that they may think they know what’s up when they speak for less of the population then one would think).

  • sacredharpsinger  On March 26, 2010 at 7:35 am

    post script:
    This is Cody, making his first appearance on this discussion board.
    I’ll do better in the future, Dr. Mullooly. But sacredharpsinger = Cody Madsen

  • Charon193 (Christina Knapp)  On March 26, 2010 at 8:07 am

    I agree with Patrick, as hard to believe as that seems. While ethnoscience makes it easier to explain the native’s perspective, it does not always explain why things are done a certain way. Isn’t that why we rely on so many other disciplines to help explain what might be going on? We have the structuralists with their economist background and linguistists to determine what is important to the culture base on the words used. These only provide one view of a subject, however, and need to be combined to get a full picture. It’s kind of like the six blind guys that are trying to describe an elephant by whatever end that they are investigating. Of course, just having the full picture doesn’t guarantee that you’ll see the same thing as everyone else. Remember my tea-plot test? There were a ton of different descriptions of what people saw. Or the word association exercise from last week’s group. I associated dog with the anime “Inuyasha” for crying out loud. We would probably have a psychologist calling me eccentric or a young adult longing for her childhood with that one. Anyway, using ideas from the different academic disciplines can help us to see even a full picture of a culture in a new light, which may give us new leads to investigate. The anthropologists who invented this idea of cognitive anthropology may have been trying to get results that could be produced over and over again, but the different view points of each branch of science make that highly improbable.

  • Audra  On March 26, 2010 at 8:18 am

    To “think like a native” is not something I think many researchers can do accurately. For one, even if the researcher were to sit down with the ‘native’ to ask about their culture; the researchers view would to be skewed by their own culture. Even if we think we are not comparing our culture to that culture we actually still are. It is human nature to think ethnocentrically.

    It is true when researchers interview ‘natives’ that they can get different opinions on culture. That is going to be true in any culture because everybody has their own view on what their culture is. However, that does not mean the data isn’t useful. Having different opinions within one culture about culture could be very helpful to research.

    My only thought is, how can a researcher “know” a culture by only interviewing a few individuals or talking with them for only a few hours? I think to have a better understanding of a culture a researcher would 1) need to live within that culture for several years 2) talk to everyone within the group elders, adults, teenagers, and children 3) and participate within the culture.

    Just as quick example: My sister lives in Taiwan, she grew up here in California. When she moved to Taiwan she was so excited she loved Taiwanese culture. However, after she got there she wasn’t sure if she could live there anymore. It was hard, the culture she thought she understood was way more complicated than she had realized. She lived there for almost 4 years now and she still has trouble. But she has a better understanding of the culture and has become a full participant in the Taiwanese culture.

  • TheAnthroGeek  On March 26, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Audra points out the many challenges of thinking like a native. Happily, other theories in Anthro (ones less psychologically inspired than Cognitive Anthro) are also comfortable with the “outsider” view of culture.

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