Emerging Trends in Culture and Concepts

Bethany Ojalehto, Douglas L Medin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The relation between culture and concepts has long been a fascinating topic for layperson and scientist alike. But often this topic has generated more heat than light—strong claims have been paired with weak evidence, and anecdotes have been more common than empirical data. More recently, however, interdisciplinary research programs have begun to demonstrate that interest in the relation between culture and concepts is not misplaced. In this essay, we review prior, emerging, and potential future trends in culture and concepts research. Changing conceptions of culture are in turn affecting how culture is studied as well as our understanding of concepts.

First, we discuss current challenges in cultural research stemming from the fact that cognitive science studies have largely been done by Western researchers attempting to extend observations with Western college students to the world at large. Next, we highlight cultural research on semantic spaces, agency, and causality and note intriguing parallels in their development. These bodies of work refine previous views of concepts as stable units of thought by focusing on how concepts acquire (shifting sets of) meanings within contextual and epistemological systems.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
Subtitle of host publicationAn Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource
EditorsRobert A Scott, Marlis C Buchmann, Stephen M Kosslyn
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781118900772
StatePublished - 2015


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