Networks of Meaning: Intergroup Relations, Cultural Worldviews, and Knowledge Activation Principles



In this article, we bring advances in the fields of social cognition, personality, and culture to bear on the topic of intergroup relations. Specifically, principles of knowledge activation (Higgins, 1996), and of the architecture of knowledge networks (Cervone, 2005; Mischel & Shoda, 1995) are applied to understanding how cultural groups develop divergent worldviews. We discuss these principles within a recently proposed model of culture and person dynamics, the Cultural Cognitive-Affective Processing System (Mendoza-Denton & Mischel, 2007). It is argued that the underlying psychological principles that govern knowledge acquisition and activation may be universal, but that the manifestations of these processes are culture specific. More precisely, culture impacts the availability, applicability, and accessibility of knowledge, as well as the organizational relationships among constructs. Together, these processes give rise to complex networks of meaning that, despite diverging across cultures, can nevertheless be communicated and understood by non-natives of that culture.