Cultural Network Analysis: Characterizing Target Audience Cognition

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Nov 12, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




1

Cultural Network Analysis: Characterizing Target Audience
Cognition


Winston R. Sieck
,

PhD


Louise J. Rasmussen
, PhD

Applied Research Associates

1750 Commerce Center Blvd, Fairborn, OH 45324

Phone: 937.873.8166, Fax: 937.873.8258, wsieck@ara.com



INTROD
UCTION


As
described

by Major General Scales
(Marine Corp., Ret.), the U.S. military’s Achilles
heel is knowledge of the enemy, and technology is
no replacement for understanding the enemy’s
mind. This extends to understanding civilians, as
well, since win
ning their “hearts and minds” or
influencing their
attitudes and psychological state
s

will play an important role in the wars we can
expect over the coming decades. Influence is a key
aspect of information operations

(IO)
, where the
goal is to a
ffect enem
y and other decision makers
to
achieve specific objectives.

Also, the purpose of
PSYOP as a component of IO is to influence the
attitudes and behavior of foreign governments,
organizations, groups, and individuals.
Furthermore, past research has identifi
ed
the
characterization of target audiences as one of the
most critical and challenging aspects of IO

(Sieck,
Stevens, & Shafer, 2004)
.

An inherent challenge
in understanding
foreign target audiences
rests in gathering,
analyzing, and representing the re
levant cultural
concepts,
beliefs,

and values that drive decisions

in
those populations. In this paper, we present
Cultural Network Analysis

(CNA) as a broad
approach that aids in providing the most relevant
cognitive aspects of cultural groups for decisi
on
influence. CNA comprises

a collection of
methodologies for eliciting, analyzing, and
representing the beliefs, values, and cognitive
concepts that are shared by members of cultural
groups

(Sieck & Rasmussen, 2007)
. This paper will
provide a detailed de
scription of CNA as well as a
discussion of how CN
A can be applied to support
challenges

in characterizing target

audience
s
.


Cu
lture as

Shared
Knowledge



Within cognitive anthropology, culture is
typically defined as involving shared knowledge
(
D’Andrade
, 1995
). One specific theoretical
approach to culture that characterizes culture in
terms of knowledge is the epidemiological view.
Here,
“Epidemiology” is used in the general sense
of describing and explaining the distributions of any
property within a po
pulation.
Cultural
epidemiolog
y regards culture in terms of the ideas
that are widely distributed throughout

a population
(Sperber, 1996
)
.

The emphasis on “ideas” or content knowledge
is consistent with work in cognitive field research
and naturalistic de
cision making that has
consistently found experiences and mental models
to have a primary

influence on real
-
world decision
making. The research from this community clearly
identifies the contents of cognition, as opposed to
microlevel cognitive processes
often studied in
laboratory experiments

(such as working memory)
,
as the major driving force of decisions.

CNA leverages what has been learned about
mental models from cognitive field research
in
order to more concretely define the kinds of ideas
and the
ir interrelationships that matter most in
human decision processes.

M
ental models are
experience
-
based, causal explanations of how things
work that guide a person’s assessments, judgme
nts,
and their decision
-
making. Mental model
s

depend
heavily on cultur
e.

To take a concrete

example,
consider
intermarriage between U. S. military personnel and
Iraqis. Intermarriage has been taken as one visible
indicator of the extent to which we are winning the


Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




2

hearts and minds campaign. Several reasons have
been cite
d for why so few U. S. personnel have
taken home Iraqi spouses, as compared with wars
past.
One potential reason has to do with the
cultural differences in how Americans and Iraqis
think about romantic relationships. We can
appreciate the differences by
developing an explicit
model of Iraqi romantic relationships.

A mental
model of romantic relationships

c
ontains a person’s concepts as well as their
understanding of the causal relationships between
concepts, i.e. the antecedents and consequences of
roman
tic activities and their outcomes. This mental
model influences the individual’s expectations for
how romantic relationships should unfold and
provides a framework for selecting behaviors and
goals within romantic situations. For example,
individuals may h
old the idea that a date is a social
engagement to go out alone with another person,
usually with romantic intentions. Their minds may
also be inhabited by the idea that dates should be
avoided at any cost. As an example, consider
Figure 1, a pictorial r
epresentation that might
describe an

Iraqi
’s mental model of romantic
relationship pathways. The set of ideas represented
in Figure 1 were extracted from a single newspaper
article

on
Arab
-
American
s
, and so it should be
treated as largely notional for ill
ustrative purposes
(MacFarquhar, 2006). Figure 1 depicts a number of
ideas u
sing circles, lines, and color.

These ideas
include simple concepts such as dating and
marriage, represented as circles. It also includes
causal ideas such as that dating decreas
es ones
chances of marriage, and of staying on an Islamic
Path. These are represented as lines in the figure,
with +/
-

indicating the direction of the causal
relation. Finally, Figure 1 portrays ideas of desired
states or value using color, as well as a
logical flow
across desired states. Staying on the Islamic path is
a good thing, something one should do. Finding a
marital partner is likewise valued.



Email
Online
Chat
Dating
Pre
-
marital
sex
Talking
Morally
Marked
Marriage
Islamic
Path
Parent
Influence
Scripted
Meeting

+
+
+
+
+
+
+
+

Email
Online
Chat
Dating
Pre
-
marital
sex
Talking
Morally
Marked
Marriage
Islamic
Path
Parent
Influence
Scripted
Meeting

+
+
+
+
+
+
+
+



Figure 1. Notional representation of a
culturally
-
shared
mental model
.


Since dating increas
es the risk that one will be
toppled off of the Islamic path, as well as hampering
ones chances of getting married, it should be
avoided. Hence, holding this mental model is likely
to have fairly strong consequences for how a person
will decide and act.

A
s implied by the name, mental models reside
inside the heads of individuals. However, when
people engage in activities such as speaking,
writing, drawing, and modifying their environment
in any way, their mental models leave observable
traces in the form
of physical artifact
s and
representations. Figure 1

is one example of an
external trace of a mental model, just as was the
article from which it was derived. When
externalized traces are encountered by another


Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




3

person, that person’s mind produces thoughts
that
are similar to the originating mental models, at least
to some extent. While looking over Figure 1, you
probably entertained some thoughts that were
somewhat like those of the people quoted in the
article. On a broader scale, people who come into
co
ntact with similar traces can thus develop mental
models that resemble one another. Mental models
can spread widely throughout a population,
becoming
“cultural” in the sense of being
shared by
many of its members. They can also endure within
the populati
on for very long periods of time.

At this point, it is useful to summarize and
define a few related terms. First, the term
culture

refers to mental models, and other contents of the
mind, that are shared by members of a population
over a period of time.

It also includes the resulting
behaviors and other traces that foster prolonged
survival of the shared ideas by providing “habitats”
for them.

Cultural group

refers to a self
-
identified group
of people that constitute the population of interest.
Tradit
ionally, members of cultural groups were
connected in many different spheres, including
being neighbors, engaging in the same work, and
participating in the same social and religious
activities. High overlap in experiences like those,
clearly leads to sha
red ideas within a large number
of domains. More and more, people often identify
with an increasingly wide assortment of groups that
vary considerably in aspects such as purpose, size,
and cohesion. Modern cultural groups may be best
defined and describe
d using tools such as social
network analysis.

The relevant cultural group for a study will
depend on the
cultural domain
, that is, the kind and
topic of knowledge of interest. Further, despite the
redundancy, we sometimes use
cultural knowledge

in plac
e of
culture

to refer to the networks of mental
content for which there is some level of
concordance among members in the cultural group.

Finally,
cultural model

refers to an external
representation of a culture that is constructed by a
researcher. A cu
ltural model represents a consensus
of the mental models for a particular cultural group
and domain. Hence, to the extent that its elements
are shared among
Iraqis
, Figure 1 serves as a
n Iraqi

cultural model in the domain of romantic
relationships.

Consid
ering Figure 1 as the cultural model for
some target audience within Iraq gives us a precise
way of identifying cognitive vulnerabilities to
influence cultural change. For example, suppose
marriage is the most tangible perceived outcome
that is negatively

influenced by dating. We can then
affect a change in the cultural model by targeting
the
specific causal chain of beliefs

that dating will
decrease the chanc
es of becoming married. This
could be

done by developing messages, including
concrete images, th
at show Iraqi daughters dating
and then getting married. This example also
highlights the interrelation between causal beliefs
and values. That is, changing the causal
belief
chain
so that dating is seen as increasing the
chances of marriage can also aff
ect the relevant
value (or attitude) towards dating.


Why Cultural Models?


Cultural models are formal descriptions of the
knowledge possessed by members of particular
groups. Cultural models describe and represent
how the world is understood by the membe
rs of
these cultural groups. A key premise is that cultural
knowledge comprises many networks of causally
-
interconnected ideas. These mental models become
activated within particular situations to drive
thinking and decision making, and can change under
suitable conditions. Cultural models also seek to
account for intracultural, as well as intercultural
variation in cultural knowledge, relationships
between cultural knowledge and social networks,
and cultural change.
Cultural dynamics across
social netw
orks is especially useful for planning IO,
and anticipating
influence
effects.




Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




4



Figure 2: Cultural models represent a statistical consensus of the mental models for a cultural group.



Cultural Models vs. Cultural Dimension
s


Cultural psychologists have often
conceptualized culture in terms of lists of domain
general, stable traits, such as individualist
-
collectivist value orientations. The intent of this
program is to find a core set of dimensions for
characterizing cultur
es that are believed by some
researchers to be important across a wide variety of
domains. The promise of this approach is to
provide a priori, purely analytical predictions about
cultural groups that are widely applicable to many
particular problems. Th
e enterprise is successful if
the same small set of dimensions is predictive
across a wide variety of cultural domains and
groups.

There is some evidence at this point that general
cultural dimensions may not be as useful as one
might expect to predict c
ognitive or social patterns
within the context of specific situations. For
examp
le, Sieck, Smith, & McHugh (2007
) found
patterns of a work team orientation dimension that
were reversed from the predictions of
individualism/collectivism. Tinsley and Brett

(2001) also did not find individualism/collectivism
to be useful for predicting outcomes in US and
Chinese negotiations, but found that
specific beliefs
about negotiation

were useful. Osland & Bird
(2000) point to a number of cultural paradoxes that
aris
e in particular contexts from cultural
characterization in terms of general value
dimensions.
The a priori analytical promise of the
dimensions
approach is tempting, but so far the real
value is at best unclear.


CULTURAL NETWORK ANA
LYSIS


Cultural Networ
k Analysis (CNA) refers to a
collection of methodologies for building cultural
models. CNA includes methods to:




elicit and analyze the mental models of a sample
of individuals within the population



Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




5



measure the degree to which elements of the
mental model
s are shared across individuals and
develop cultural models



represent the cultural model in accessible format


Figure 2 provides an abstract representation that
illustrates individuals’ mental models within a
cultural group, along with external cultural mo
dels
that have been extracted from the group

using
Cultural Network Analysis
.

CNA is
based on a

view of culture as comprising distributions of
networks of causally
-
interconnected ideas within
populations of investigation. CNA builds on a
synthesis of con
ceptually related methods for
knowledge elicitation, analysis, and representation
that stem from the diverse fields of naturalistic
decision making, cognitive anthropology, cognitive
psychology, and decision analysis. None of these
fields alone offers a c
omprehensive, end
-
to
-
end
approach for cultural modeling. CNA fills that gap.

Cultural Network Analysis comprises a
discovery phase and a consolidation phase. In the
discovery phase,
concepts and mental models are
extracted from qualitative sources, suc
h as
interviews and open source media

(web news,
blogs, email)
,
with little presupposition regarding
the elicited contents.

One goal of this phase is to develop an initial
understanding of the concepts and characteristics
that are culturally relevant wit
hin the domain. A
second objective is to obtain initial
graphical
representations of target audience members
’ mental
models in forms
that closely match their

own

natural

representational structure. Qualitative
analysis and representation at this stage yi
eld
insights that can be captured in initial cultural
models.
Often, qualitative analysis may be all that
is needed for applications.

The discovery

phase also generates a wealth of
material for constructing subsequent structured data
collection

in a con
solidation phase useful in
strategic communications situations involving
longer
-
term monitoring and evaluation of cultural
changes
. In the consolidation phase of

CNA,
structured interviews,
field experiments
, and
automated semantic mining of web
-
based sou
rces

are used to obtain systematic data that is more
amenab
le to statistical analysis. S
tatistical model
s

used by cognitive anthropologists,
such as cultural
consensus theory, are

employed to assess the
patterns of agreement and derive statistics
describi
ng the distribution of
concepts, causal
beliefs
, and values
. Finally, formal representations
of the cultural models are constructed that illustrate
the statistical and qualitative information in
diagrams. Influence diagrams are an important
representatio
n format for cultural models. Formal
representation makes it possible to use cultural
models in a variety of applied contexts.


Discovery Phase


Mental models are explanations about how
things work
, and these explanations vary across
cultures
.
Mental mod
els entail culture
-
specific
knowledge of the elementary concepts, as well as
ho
w they are causally related. A

cognitive
anthropological study by Garro (2000) provides an
example of obtaining mental models from cultural
groups through interviews.
In a stu
dy examining
the cultural knowledge and understandings relating
to diabetes causation in a Native
American
community, Garro

conducted interviews following
an “explanatory model framework
.


All of the
participants were members of the Anishinaabe
community
who had been previously diagnosed
with diabetes. The researchers ensured that the
following aspects of their experiences were covered
in the interview:




The cause of their illness



Why it started and when it did



The history of the illness



The kinds of effe
cts it has



Possible and appropriate treatments for the
illness


Participants were also encouraged to talk more
generally about possible causes and ways of dealing
with diabetes, and to answer additional related


Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




6

questions that arose from the responses given
.
Based on the results, Garro constructed a
hierarchically organized outline of the culturally
available understandings relevant to a cultural
model

for sickness. The outline organized the most
common explanations of illness mentioned in the
interviews. F
irst, the different types of sicknesses
and sickness explanations were identified. After
having inferred the major types of sicknesses the
causes, or perceived causes, were sorted into
sickness categories. The level of detail and
abstraction of the cause d
escriptions was dictated by
the
level at which

informants

naturally shared
information
.

CNA generalizes these cognitive information
requirements to build cultural models.
In particular,
a CNA

study
to characterize the cognition of a
target audience
should

aim to capture the following:




Basic level of simple concepts



Distinct states of the

concept
s



Positive/negative
value associated with distinct
concept states and outcomes



Antecedent c
ausal factors that influence the
states of the concepts



Consequences of
positive/negative valued states
of the concepts



Synthetic conditions, such as cultural artifacts
and institutions that influence concept states


Although mental models are described in
abstract terms, gathering specific cases and
incidents can aid in
achie
ving
concrete grounding
to

tease out clues to participant’s mental models. For
example, Sieck, McHugh, & Smith (2006) elicited
incidents from participants in Lebanon and the US
who had participated in protests as a means to gain
access to
Arab
crowd membe
rs’ understandings and
expectations of how crowds work, and the decisions
that are made within crowds.

The difficulty inherent in getting information
from what people say, especially when they are
challenged with talking about very abstract
concepts, can
also be circu
mvented by attending
more to the metaphors

they
use to
say it.

Systematic
analysis of m
etaphor use can provide reliable access
to tacit knowledge
. The metaphorical concepts
employed by an individual can then be compared to
those employed by th
e group. Importantly, it is
possible to compare whether the metaphors used by
one cultural gro
up have the same or

different
implications for action

(Quinn, 2005)
. If two
cultural groups use metaphorical concepts that have
different implications for actions

to describe the
same domain, this entails that they conceptualize
the domain very differently.

For example, in cross
-
cultural studies of

AIDS

concepts
, Wolf (1996) has
compared the war metaphors of the first world to
conceptualize the AIDS virus (e.g., "
combating the
disease" and "killer cells") with the metaphors
employed in Malawi, where the viru
s is
conceptualized using

metaphors of eating; the virus,
conceived of as a worm, eats up human beings.


Consolidation P
hase


One issue with purely qualitative

approaches to
the development of cultural models is the lack of
transparency or consistent guidelines in what
knowledge was deemed sufficiently shared to
include in the model. Strau
ss and Quinn

state, “At
what point in the continuum of sharedness we
deci
de to call a given schema ‘cultural’ is simply a
matter of taste,” (p 122). Computational approaches
are required for consolidating the qualitative
discoveries about culturally shared mental models,
and further analyzing and representing their
distributio
ns within and between populations.
Cultural consensus theory and
Cultural Mixture
Modeling (CCM)

are two tools that can be usefully
employed to meet those needs.


Cultural consensus theory is a collection of
formal statistical models designed to assess
concordance in knowledge and beliefs among a set
of respondents (Romney, Weller, & Batchelder,
1986). When a cultural consensus is found, it
provides the consensual responses that indicate
culturally shared knowledge and estimates of the
strength of conse
nsus for those responses.
Individuals will also vary in the extent to which


Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




7

their responses agree with the consensus, and that
variation is captured explicitly for each individual
under the rubric of “cultural competence.” Cultural
competence should not
be confused with expertise,
but rather with the degree of concordance with the
culturally shared
model
.

Additional analyses can be performed to
understand
individual variability

in cultural
competence, for example, by relating those
CCT
measures
to socia
l network analysis measures. The
theory also enables the calculation of the minimum
number of respondents needed to
assess

the degree
of agreement. Assuming the data collection taps
into reasonably well
-
shared cultural knowledge,
then the number or respo
ndents can be quite small,
e.g., 10 or fewer respondents. This is
an important
feature for field use
, which often aims
to draw
conclusions from relatively small samples
.

Cultural Mixture Modeling (CMM) is

a more
recently developed statistical technique

fo
r
identifying

shared cultural beliefs (
Muel
ler, Sieck &
Veinott, 2007). CMM

uses model
-
based clustering
techn
iques that allows one to determine multiple

distinct shared beliefs
among segments
within a
sampled population, as well as what those beliefs
are.

It also provides

a

wider

number of metrics for
assessing the cultural coh
erence of the segments
within the target audience
, as well as the cu
ltural
competence of each member
.


Graphical
Representation


We have developed

a default approach to
representati
on for CNA
so as to

accomplish the
following:


1.

Provide a standard pictorial form that shows
the concepts and causal linkages in a manner
that can be readily digested by
IO
end users who
need to routinely comprehend cultural models in
varied domains

2.

Permit

a direct means of representing the
statistical distributions of cultural knowledge,
rather than just the shared knowledge

3.

Yield

representations in a useful form for
developers of
agent
-
based simulation and
analysis

systems


Figure 1 presents
a standard

re
presentation
format, illustrated with an initial Arab
-
American
cultural model of romantic relationships. It is an
influence diagram. In it, each node
-
link
-
node
combination represents influence, in the sense that
the value of the concept at the beginning
of an
arrow affects the value of the concept at the arrow’s
point.

An influence diagram can present a relatively
simple and useful representation of
a cultural

model
of a domain that is tied to key judgments and
decisions that
are of importance for an IO

mission
.
T
he diagram represents the “culturally correct”
concepts and linkages as determined by CCT

or
CMM. Furthermore, CMM

results can be used to
populate the numerical probability values in the
model for developing a technically useful
representation

of a cultural model. The result in this
case is a summary of not only the shared influence
links across the population, but rather the full
distribution of beliefs, with probabilities indicating
the consensus on any particular link. Although
numerical
a
nalyses inform

the final result, the use of
influence diagrams to represent cultural model
s only
requires that individual members of the target
audience

be able to convey the qualitative
components and directions of the influences in the
diagram.

They do
not have to report quantitative
information.


APPLICATIONS


Culture is made up of contagious ideas, that is,
ideas that propogate effectively and durably within a
population (Sperber, 1996). Two broad objectives
of research within this cultural epidemiolo
gy
viewpoint are to characterize the current distribution
of mental models within the cultural group and to
understand the dynamics of culture. Enhanced
understanding of the current distribution of mental


Proceedings of Phoenix Challenge 2008




8

models within a culture can form a solid foundation

for
shaping and effecting cultural

change.

F
unda
mental cultural research

seeks to address
why some ideas are more infectious than others, and
to explain the most widely distributed and long
-
lasting ideas within a population. Research for
practical purpos
es

of IO

has a slightly different
focus
, as it is directed to influence decision making
.
From

a decision
-
making standpoint,

we recognize
that many ideas may be pervasive but
inconsequential to decisions of practical interest.
Hence,
CNA

applied to IO beg
ins by identifying the

critical judgments and decisions that
meet IO
objectives. We then direct
Cultura
l Network
Analysis to characterize

the networks of causally
-
interconnected ideas that are relevant to those
decisions in order to answer
the questions
m
ost
pertinent to the goals of
designing information
campaigns
:




How are networks of ideas organized in mental
models

for this target audience
?



What is the distribution of m
ental models in this
target audience
?



In what ways are the distributions changing ov
er
time?



What ideas
are especially
successful
/vulnerable
in the target audience
?


By addressing these questions, CNA
can serve
as a basis for developing influence operations and
composing effective strategic communications.
Using CNA to make explicit maps
of

a
target
audiences’ cultural

understanding
related to specific
decisions

can serve as a basis for inferring otherwis
e
implicit goals and intentions, and
determining what
makes for culturally
relevant messages
.
C
ultural
model
s

also allow for making predi
ctions
concerning the effectiveness of a message by
providing the opportunity to assess potential
unintended inferences that individuals with a certain
k
nowledge structure might make. T
he explicit
content knowledge
obtained using
CNA
can

also
provide a sta
rting point for modeling and simulating
the dynamics of
within a given culture.

REFERENCES


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The development of cognitive
anthropology
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Garro, L. C. (2000). Remembering what one knows and the

construction of the past: A comparison of cultural
consensus theory and cultural schema theory.
Ethos,
28
(3), 275
-
319.

McFarquhar, N. (2006). It’s Muslim boy meets girl, yes, but
please don’t call it dating.
The New York Times
, Sept. 19.

Mueller, S. T.,

Sieck, W. R., & Veinott, E. (2007).
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(Technical
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01
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2
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of Management Executive
, 14(1), 65
-
79.

Quinn, N. (2005).
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Sieck, W. R., & Rasmussen, L. J. (2007, September). Cultural
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Sieck, W. R., Stevens, L. M., & Shafer, J. L. (2004).
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Fairborn, OH: Klein Associates.

Sperber, D. (1996).
Explaining culture: A natural
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Wolf, A. (1996). Metaphors of eating in the context of HIV
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-
221).
Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.



This research was sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory
and the U.K. Ministry of Defence and was accomplished under
Agreement Number W911NF
-
06
-
3
-
0001. The views and conclusions
contained in thi
s document are those of the author(s) and should not
be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed
or implied, of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S.
Government, the U.K. Ministry of Defence or the U.K. Government.
The U.S.

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