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American Philosophical Society
Style, Classification and Ethnicity: Design Categories on Bakuba Raffia Cloth: Transactions, APS (vol. 80, part 3)
Dorothy K. Washburn
Cognitive psychologists are now suggesting that there are two kinds of features which people use in the recognition & classifiation process.The first are very basic properties which have been studied by experimental psychologists. The second are object-specific features which have been the basis of most stylistic analyses. However, experimental psychologists have largely studied the categorization process in an acultural setting, & both they & their subjects were largely from Western, modernized cultures. Since what is perceived varies greatly from culture to culture, the challenge to anthropologists is to develop methodologies that will reveal which features are salient in a given cultural situation. It is therefore the purpose of this study to re-examine the issue of how people sort & group things in their world by utilizing both the methodologies of cognitive psychology & anthropology to understand the kinds of features people use to make category decisions. To test this approach, the author examined how the Bakuba of central Zaire manipulate certain basic design properties in their process of naming pattern categories on raffia cloth. Illus.
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