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The effects of culture on ambiguity and connotative meanings of thematic apperception cards Moriya, Atsuko


The present research was conducted to determine the influence of cultural factors upon cognitive assessment of Thematic Apperception Test cards. In the first study, a sample, consisting of 100 Japanese students, identified the major perceptual impact of TAT cards by specifying from a list of five alternative categories the one which best described a given card. The data were quantified by the uncertainty measure (H) in order to provide an indication of the ambiguity of each TAT card. The comparative Canadian data were obtained from Kuechler's (1961) study. A comparison of the rank order of the TAT cards for ambiguity yielded a significant correlation between sexes within a given culture; cross-cultural comparisons indicated that only the Japanese male rankings agreed with the male and female Canadian ratings. The Japanese female rankings did not relate to the Canadian rankings. To determine whether the connotative meaning of TAT cards is dependent upon cultural factors, a second study was conducted. Seventy Japanese students and 85 Canadian students rated each TAT card on twelve bipolar semantic scales which represented the general connotative factors of evaluation, potency and activity. The mean judgements for each TAT card against each semantic scale were correlated. Similarly, the rank orders of the general factors were correlated. High correlations obtained from these comparisons provide evidence for the validity of the placements of the semantic scales within their general factors. On the other hand, with the exception of the "meaningful-meaningless" semantic scale for the Japanese sample, the semantic space of connotative meanings generated by the scales of evaluation I and II are dissimilar. Osgood's hypothesis that evaluation, activity and potency are distinct general factors was not upheld. Finally, the correlation between the rankings of the TAT cards, based on the uncertainty measure and the semantic scales, were determined. The results showed that ambiguous cards are viewed as "active" and "potent" by Canadian subjects. Contrary to expectation, evaluation II correlated positively with degree of ambiguity. These findings are, however, unique to the Canadian groups: with one minor exception, Japanese semantic factor rankings did not correlate with ambiguity rankings. Such results most clearly demonstrate cultural influences on the relations between ambiguity and connotative correlates of pictorial stimuli. To provide a comprehensive picture of the influence of culture and sex on the semantic differential results, a Chi square analysis was applied cross culturally and between sexes. It was found that a greater distinction exists between cultures than between sexes in the same culture. An important finding was that cultural differences were expressed more significantly on the semantic scales than on the cards per se. It may be concluded that the semantic correlates of ambiguity only hold for the Canadian sample and that Japanese males are closer than Japanese females to Canadian individuals. The results generally support the hypothesis of cultural influence upon an individual's manner of cognitive responses to perceptual stimuli.

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