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Free-sorting of colors across cultures: Are there universal grounds for grouping?

Roberson, Debi, Davies, Ian R. L., Corbett, Greville G. and Vandervyver, Marieta (2005) Free-sorting of colors across cultures: Are there universal grounds for grouping? Journal of Cognition and Culture, 5 (3). pp. 349-386.


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These studies examined naming and free-sorting behavior by informants speaking a wide range of languages, from both industrialized and traditional cultures. Groups of informants, whose color vocabularies varied from 5 to 12 basic terms, were given an unconstrained color grouping task to investigate whether there are systematic differences between cultures in grouping behavior that mirror linguistic differences and, if there are not, what underlying principles might explain any universal tendencies. Despite large differences in color vocabulary, there were substantial similarities in grouping behavior across language groups, and substantial within-language variation across informants. It seems that all informants group stimuli based on some criterion of perceptual similarity, but those with large color vocabularies are more likely to group stimuli in line with their basic color terms. The data are best accounted for by a hybrid system that combines a universal principle of grouping by similarity with culture-specific category salience.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages > English > Surrey Morphology Group
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Roberson, Debi
Davies, Ian R.
Corbett, Greville
Vandervyver, Marieta
Date : 1 October 2005
DOI : 10.1163/156853705774648536
Uncontrolled Keywords : Grouping, color categories, free-sorting, universality, cultural relativity
Additional Information : This is an author-prepared version of an article published in Journal of Cognition and Culture, 5, 349-386. Click here to access the published version. © 2005 Brill Academic Publishers.
Depositing User : Mr Adam Field
Date Deposited : 27 May 2010 14:39
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 16:21

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