My research interests have been driven from the very beginning by questions of identity and knowledge: How do we, as situated, cultured agents, relate to the world? And how does this differ across places, and why? Specifically, this question is two-fold: First, there is the question of how our categories are created, considering that categories are the building blocks of cognition. Second, there is the question of what is “we”. Specifically: I was fascinated by the interaction of biology and culture in the shaping of human cognition. Despite its importance to our cognitive lives, the question of how we create our sensory categories remains today with no satisfying answer. Color provides an excellent case study, and this is the main reason why it has become my area of expertise.
For a long time, the question of the origin of our color categories received two types of answer, leading to a classical nature vs. nurture dichotomy. I was amongst the first to explicitly voice a concern in the context of my thesis, arguing that the data could not be accounted fully by either these approaches. After dedicating several years to showing how these approaches were limited, and examining connected questions (see list of publications), I have started developing a model where both types of mechanisms could be interacting.
My interest for color categorization remains, but recently, I have also been interested in other areas of research; namely our general understanding of the informational value of color; sensory categorization in general, namely in olfaction, and folk biology, especially in Arabic and the difference between standard and colloquial.
Contact Yasmina at yasmina /dot/ jraissati AT ronininstitute Dot org