Cultural logics: Toward theory and measurement

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Researchers have increasingly used the concept of “logics” to study and explain cultural phenomena. Yet aside from the institutional logics perspective – which mostly focuses on organizations and uses a neo-institutional framework – there has been little guidance on how to define and measure logics. Examining fifty years of research, I find that analysts have tended to theorize and operationalize logics in two conflicting ways – as organizing principles for decision-making and/or as well-reasoned justifications. I propose a new definition of logics, as shared, internalized, cognitive structures which are fundamentally evaluative in nature, and distinguish them from other cultural constructs like “frames” and “schemas.” I advocate for a measurement strategy in which logics are operationalized as an evaluation with a unique set of criteria, with each criterion having a particular importance as well as direction of importance. I then provide some practical guidelines for collecting and analyzing data on logics. I illustrate the potential of this approach in two cases studies: a qualitative case using simulated college admissions decisions, and a quantitative case using original data on views toward poverty. I find evidence for previously-overlooked distinctions between liberals’ and conservatives’ bases for poverty policy support, revealing the power of a logics approach.




Valentino, L. (2021). Cultural logics: Toward theory and measurement. Poetics, 88.

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