IB Cultural Anthropology/The Nature of Anthropology/Analyzation of Data

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The Purpose of Analysis[edit]

After collecting data, one would need to organize it into a logical form. One collects so much data in the field that without organization, the notes become virtually worthless. But organization is just the first step of analysis.

For example, one could take notes on North American marriage patterns. After organizing the data, one could list:

  • Dating
  • Courtship
  • Betrothal
  • Wedding
  • Divorce

This has no analyzation, however. One would need to examine the rights and duties bestowed upon a husband and wife when they become married. In many cultures there is compensation to the woman’s family for the loss of the woman’s labor. After divorce, what can one infer from the custody rights awarded? One would need to formulate a hypothesis as to why North American marriage patterns take this form as opposed to marriage patterns of other cultures of the world.

Steps Toward Analyzing Data[edit]

In order to make a strong argument for one’s hypothesis, one needs to properly analyze the data. This in turn needs a proper interpretation, which requires a proper selection of the data. Raw field notes are far too numerous and disordered to be simply typed up and published. Most of the observations one makes are irrelevant towards one’s hypothesis and can be ignored.

After carefully selecting data, one must interpret it correctly. This analyzation is the link between one’s data and one’s hypothesis and it is called the warrant.

Concepts for Analyzation[edit]

There are several concepts one must understand to correctly analyze data. These are:

  • Ethnocentrism
  • Naïve Realism
  • Culture Bound
  • Cultural Relativity
  • Emic & Etic
  • Models of Thought vs. Models of Action


One attempts to avoid ethnocentrism as much as possible in anthropology. This is the belief that one’s culture is superior to that of others. An ethnocentric anthropologist will judge other cultures by his or her own cultural standards. There are, however, several positives to ethnocentrism. A list of some pros and cons:


  • Everyone is slightly ethnocentric. Recognition of one’s ethnocentrism allows one to recognize one’s biases as well.
  • Ethnocentrism allows one to pinpoint what makes one feel positively about one’s own culture and facilitates comparison between one’s own culture and another.
  • Ethnocentrism allows for strong group ties.
  • Ethnocentrism allows for social integration
  • Ultimately, ethnocentrism leads to a stronger sense of unity than patriotism.


  • Might cause one to misinterpret another culture.
  • Can lead to cultural evangelism.
  • A culture can become militaristic in its spread of its culture.
  • Cultures can become blinded by their own self-righteousness.
  • Ethnocentrism rationalizes detrimental programs.
  • Creates social problems
    • Genocide is a result of ethnocentrism
    • A slight problem with genocide is that it ends up creating more cultural unity in the oppressed group than before!
  • Ethnocentrism can give rise to war.
    • These wars are largely ineffective because culture is not a commodity for export.

Naïve Realism[edit]

This is rather the opposite of ethnocentrism. If one is naïvely realistic, then one paints a romanticized picture of a culture and finds the culture to be superior to one’s own. One must be careful to not see something that appears similar to one’s own culture and therefore assume that the something is exactly like it is in one’s own culture.

An example of naïve realism is that the life of a cowboy was just riding into the sunset and playing cards in saloons. One ignores the dangers a cowboy faced- disease, stampedes, etc.

Culture Bound[edit]

This is a state of being unable to observe and study a culture from the culture’s point of view. Anthropologists want to avoid this as much as possible as well- cultures must be evaluated in their own terms.

Cultural Relativity[edit]

This is the opposite of culture bound. Cultural relativity is the ability to judge a culture based on itself. The thesis behind it is:

All cultures are unique and can be evaluated only through their own standards.

The logical corollary to this thesis is that all cultures are equal. Each custom is valid for the culture that uses it. Thus, one must suspend judgments of other cultures. Anthropologists strive to be as cultural relative as possible.

Just as there are positives to ethnocentrisms, however, there are problems with cultural relativity. These will be listed briefly here:

  • Value-free research is ideal, but impossible.
  • It’s hard to find universal values.
    • Just about the only one is that involuntary starvation is bad.
  • If one takes cultural relativity too far, then one falls into an “anything goes” mindset.
    • The Holocaust was valid in the Nazi culture, but that does not mean we must approve of it.

In using cultural relativity, one must remember that understanding does not necessarily imply acceptance.

Emic & Etic[edit]

Cultural relativity leads directly to the concepts of emic and etic. Analysis of data can be done from two different perspectives. The emic perspective is that of the native or "insider," and the etic is that of the foreigner or "outsider." Observations made from an emic perspective usually consist of qualitative data and are relevant to only the study of that one particular culture. Observations made from an etic perspective usually consist of quantitative data that can be compared to other cultures. Both emic and etic observations must be made for an anthropologist to wholly study the culture.

Models of Thought vs. Models of Action[edit]

The necessity for both emic and etic observations is demonstrated by the difference between models of thought and models of action. Models of thought and models of action are also known as ideal and real behavior. Emic observations often lead to models of thought- what a person should do in a specific situation. Etic observations often lead to models of action- what person actually does in that situation.

An example of ideal vs. real behavior is traffic lights. Most people, when asked what one should do when the light turns yellow will say that it is warning you that the light will turn red soon, so you should slow down. If one actually stands at a street corner and observes traffic when the light turns yellow, one will notice that people speed up instead of slow down! Slowing down is the ideal behavior in that situation, though speeding up, what actually happens, is the real behavior.

A theory of culture must include both models of thought and models of action, since culture is the product of both actions and the thoughts that lead to those actions.

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