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Naming the Animals that Come to Mind: Effects of Culture and Experience on Category Fluency

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, Swift Hall 102, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2710, USA
  • | 2 Department of Psychology, Swift Hall 102, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2710, USA
  • | 3 Department of Psychology, Swift Hall 102, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2710, USA;, Email: j-woodring@northwestern.edu
  • | 4 Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, 124 Garland Hall, Nashville, TN 37235, USA
  • | 5 Department of Psychology, William James Hall, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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Abstract

This article considers the semantic structure of the animal category from a cross-cultural developmental perspective. Children and adults from three North American communities (urban majority culture, rural majority culture and rural Native American) were prompted to generate animal names, and the resulting lists were analyzed for their underlying dimensionality and for the typicality or salience of specific animal names. The semantic structure of the animal category appeared to be consistent across cultural groups, but the relative salience of animal kinds varied as a function of culture and first-hand experience with the natural world. These results provide evidence of a shared representation of animals across disparate cultures but also indicate a role for culture in shaping animal concepts.

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