Validating Cultural Models With Cultural Consensus Theory

Susan C. Weller, Jeffery C. Johnson, William W. Dressler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article links the discovery process of creating a descriptive model with a verification process. Descriptive “models” distilled from qualitative interviews and narratives describe explanations, processes, expectations, possible beliefs, and appropriate responses. These models are mental models or schema for thinking about objects and relations between objects. When shared across people, they are cultural models. An issue of validity arises when we try to generalize to larger groups. This article describes three approaches for confirming descriptive models using cultural consensus theory combined with a mixed-methods approach. Cultural consensus offers a way to evaluate the amount of agreement among respondents and identifies salient themes. A first approach validates content by comparing themes in descriptive qualitative results with those identified with cultural consensus. A second approach validates content by explicitly stating descriptive model assumptions and then asking about them and uses cultural consensus to verify assumptions agreed upon by respondents. Agreement between models obtained descriptively and with cultural consensus offers evidence of convergent validity. A third approach goes a step further with construct validation and uses the cultural consensus cultural model to make predictions about other aspects of everyday life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-369
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • cultural consensus
  • cultural models
  • validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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