Free associations mirroring self- and world-related concepts: Implications for personal construct theory, psycholinguistics and philosophical psychology

Frontiers in Psychology (7):art.n. 981, 1-13 (2016)
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People construe reality by using words as basic units of meaningful categorization. The present theory-driven study applied the method of a free association task to explore how people express the concepts of the world and the self in words. The respondents were asked to recall any five words relating with the word world. Afterwards they were asked to recall any five words relating with the word self. The method of free association provided the respondents with absolute freedom to choose any words they wanted. Such free recall task is suggested as being a relatively direct approach to the respondents’ self- and world-related conceptual categories, without enormous rational processing. The results provide us, first, with associative ranges for constructs of the world and the self, where some associative dimensions are defined by semantic polarities in the meanings of peripheral categories (e.g., Nature vs. Culture). Second, our analysis showed that some groups of verbal categories that were associated with the words world and self are central, while others are peripheral with respect to the central position. Third, the analysis of category networks revealed that some categories play the role of a transmitter, mediating the pathway between other categories in the network.
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