Funded Grants

A method for studying shared meaning in cultural groups

In our project we plan on developing a method for describing how different aspects of social and natural reality are represented in the minds of different social groups. Depending on the social group (gender, ethnicity, nationality, age, and many others), views about important issues are likely to vary (e.g., views on human being’s relation to nature, views about gender identity, views about social conflict). Importantly, much evidence shows that these views (be they stereotypical or more rationally founded) are shared across members of specific social groups (members of political parties are a good example). The methods we will be using are derived from well-known laboratory methods and involve collecting lists of things that can be predicated from a given concept (e.g., things that somebody believes to be typically true about “nature”, “recycling”, “terrorism”, and many other concepts).

In contrast to other existing methods for studying socially shared world views (for example, polls and surveys), we are working towards developing a method that allows theoretically founded and statistically sound data collection and data analyses to an extent that goes beyond currently available research methods. Our laboratory has already made some strides in that direction, but in the current project we hope to solve some important problems that preclude these methods from reaching their full potential. In particular, we plan on using Artificial Intelligence tools to solve important aspects of data processing and analysis. We will also carry out a full case study using our methods, and to package everything into a set of procedures that will allow other researchers to study interesting phenomena of socially constructed meaning, moving all the way from data collection to analysis techniques.