Social research methods for difficult questions

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Participant observation and interviewing are core anthropological research methods. Despite their strengths, they are vulnerable to confirmation bias and leave many important questions unanswered. How can we be confident that what we’ve learned from a few informants or texts is representative of a wider population? How can we learn about people’s thoughts and judgments when they either do not wish to discuss them honestly or have little relevant vocabulary for discussing them?

In this presentation, I will introduce a few techniques used by anthropologists and psychologists to help address these questions. Specifically, I will discuss how cultural domain analysis can be used to see what ‘romantic love’ means in the US and Lithuania, how preference tasks can be used to uncover the unstated principles of aesthetic judgements amongst the Cuna in Panama, and how the unmatched count technique can be used to better estimate the prevalence of atheism in the US. I will argue that while these methods cannot replace ethnographic fieldwork, they can be valuable additions.
Period25 Sept 2018
Held atXiamen University, China
Degree of RecognitionInternational