“Cultural Models” (CM) is a term that has come to apply to culturally standardized and shared/distributed cognitive structures for explaining or structuring action. They contrast with more cultural conceptual systems (such as kinship or ethnobiological terminological systems) and more general procedures analyzing and imposing initial structure on new problems. They are functionally a little like Schank and Abelson’s “scripts”. CMs combine motives, emotions, goals, mechanisms, classificatory information, etc.--in each case, perhaps, cross-linking to separate cognitive structures within which these separate entities are organized, structured, and classified--into possible actions. CMs can be used by individual actors to generate behavior--often after some consideration of the downstream implications of the choice of one model over another--but are not themselves the individual internal cognitive schemas that actually generate behavior. Different CMs are cross-linked with one another in a variety of ways. One area of cross-linkage includes models held by members of a given community in responsse to similar situations (as in overlap among models for doing similar things, modes for use in similar situations, models involving similar attidudes or goals, and so forth). Another kind of cross-linkage involves models for more or less the same thing that are held by members of different communities--expecially where membership overlaps in one way or another. CMs have to be easily learned, productive, and systematic.
I want to discuss the implications of these kinds of overlap for the shape of cultural models and the way in which they are learned, held, and applied. Illustrative examples will be utilized, but no systematic formal description or model of CMs will be offered--it’s too soon.