Associative Group Analysis

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Associative group analysis (AGA) is an inferential approach to analyze people's mental representations, focusing on subjective meanings and images to assess similarities and differences across cultures and belief systems. Culture can be regarded as "a group-specific cognitive organization or world view composed of the mosaic elements of meanings ". A language, as a communication tool in daily life, contains culturally specific meanings for people who use it. The words people use reflect not only their cognitions, but also their affections and behavioral intentions. To understand differences in psychological meaning across cultures, it is useful to analyze words in a language. The words people use reflect their thinking or feeling. Thinking, or more precisely the cognitive process, together with feeling, guides most of human behavior. By using AGA, we are able to understand how different groups organize and integrate their perceptions and understandings of the world around them. AGA assumes a close relationship between people's subjective understandings and their behavior. The verbal associations are determined largely by a decoding of meaning reaction. The disposition of associations then guides the overt reaction. AGA defines the stimulus word as the unit of analysis (rather than individuals, groups, or society, etc.) and as the key unit in the perceptual representational system. By analyzing free verbal associations, researchers can determine the vertical and horizontal structure of the belief system.
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