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Some problems with property ascription

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We discuss the practice of property ascription in anthropology. While recognizing that it is an inevitable and often useful way to convey the knowledge that anthropologists have acquired through ethnographic fieldwork, we identify three of the most common ways in which ascription can be misleading. First, when a property is ascribed to a collective entity, but it is unevenly distributed among social sub-groupings; second, when an ascribed mental property is alleged to cause an individual's behaviour, but the property proves to be empirically unsupported; third, when a belief is ascribed to an individual, while another belief that effectively contradicts the first one is also entertained by that same individual. We review anthropological and psychological solutions to these problems.

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