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American Anthropologist

Culture as Consensus: A Theory of Culture and Informant Accuracy

Authors

  • A. Kimball Romney,

    1. University of California, Irvine
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    • 1

      A. Kimball Romney is Professor, School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92717. Susan C. Weller is Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Clinical Epidemiology Unit, University of Pennsylvania, 2L NEB/S2, 420 Service Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19104. William H. Batchelder is Professor, School ofSocial Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92717.

  • Susan C. Weller,

    1. University of Pennsylvania
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  • William H. Batchelder

    1. University of California, Irvine
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Abstract

This paper presents and tests a formal mathematical model for the analysis of informant responses to systematic interview questions. We assume a situation in which the ethnographer does not know how much each informant knows about the cultural domain under consideration nor the answers to the questions. The model simultaneously provides an estimate of the cultural competence or knowledge of each informant and an estimate of the correct answer to each question asked of the informant. The model currently handles true-false, multiple-choice, andfill-in-the-blank type question formats. In familiar cultural domains the model produces good results from as few as four informants. The paper includes a table showing the number of informants needed to provide stated levels of confidence given the mean level of knowledge among the informants. Implications are discussed.

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