This INSPIRE award is partially funded by the Cyber-Human Systems Program in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, the Robust Intelligence Program in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and the Social Psychology Program in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. The goal of this project is to gather new insights into the ways people organize and understand their worlds within and across different cultures by means of innovative methodologies and tools from the fields of psychology and computational linguistics. The findings from this project will provide a better understanding of people on the individual psychological level as well as the cultures themselves, while developing and demonstrating new research techniques that can be used in future by many disciplines to exploit the vast troves of scientifically valuable textual data currently available online. Specifically, the project targets the following three main research objectives: 1) Construct a very large multicultural database of writings from English-speaking cultures, covering several styles and genres, including: social media (e.g., blogs, tweets); news articles; literary works; student writings. 2) Build computational linguistic models that can automatically identify differences in concept usage for different cultures, and apply these models on a large scale. 3) Validate the findings of these computational models through psychological qualitative and quantitative methods in laboratory studies.

The ways people use words can provide insights into the ways they see and understand their worlds. Everyday language can also tell us about people's social, emotional, and psychological states and even the ways they think about themselves and others. Particularly interesting is that many of the social and psychological insights we find with the language of individuals can be extrapolated to groups, communities, and entire cultures. This project seeks to analyze the written language of people across several cultures in a way that will allow us to better understand the ways groups of people understand their worlds. In short, it will use advances in computational linguistics and social psychology to track the underlying values, beliefs, and concerns of very large groups of people by analyzing the ways they use words. Unlike previous studies, which have been limited to relatively small self-report surveys targeting a handful of concepts across cultures, this project will help us understand the differences in perception for thousands of concepts, by several cultures representing hundreds of thousands of people.

This project promises to shed new light on cultural differences by analyzing the ways people understand their worlds through their everyday language use. The approach will inform applications in communication, threat control, tracking of cultural values, and others. The project will also provide educational opportunities, in the form of training for students in both computer science and psychology, who will be directly exposed to interdisciplinary research, cultural diversity, and international experiences. Finally, the large multicultural dataset that will be created as part of this project, along with the tools to process it, will be made publicly available, thus enabling future research, as well as educational projects concerned with the analysis and understanding of cultural diversity and worldview.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)
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William Bainbridge
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Regents of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor
United States
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