The map of adjectives

I am the child of two statisticians, and as a result my childhood reading included the great sourcebook Statistics: A Guide To The Unknowna collection of essays by some of the great statisticians of the century.  The thing that made a lasting impression on me was the map of adjectives from Joseph Kruskal’s article, “The Meaning of Words.”  Psychologists gathered survey data about pairs of adjectives describing personality traits, asking  to what extent the traits were similar or different, until they had enough responses to estimate a “dissimilarity measure” for each pair.  Then they used multidimensional scaling (pretty new in 1968, I think) to map the adjectives onto the plane in such a way that the distances between adjectives matched the measured dissimilarities as well as possible.  That such a thing was possible was a relevation to me — I guess I knew on some level that arithmetic could be translated into geometry, but I didn’t know that meaning could be translated into geometry.

Here’s the map, from Rosenberg, Nelson, and Vivekananthan’s original paper:

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3 thoughts on “The map of adjectives

  1. Boris says:

    If I dare say so, there isn’t enough meat in the text to balance the poor scan.

  2. JSE says:

    Yeah, sorry, I couldn’t get wordpress to include a good scan in-post, but if you follow the links you can get to .pdfs where it’s readable.

  3. Boris says:

    Sure enough, thanks. I thought I’d seen a paywall, I’m starting to hallucinate :(

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