A reflection on expected experimental outcomes – Latent Semantic Analysis of interviews

When I first thought of the possibility of using Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) to analyse my parent interviews exploring school choice my expectation was that the odds of success were slim.  I was familiar with the use of LSA in helping decipher the contextual meaning of words in ancient texts and indicate the likelihood a text was written by a particular person based on their known works.  LSA is one of the methods used to try and identify (speculate) who the ‘real’ Shakespeare was by comparing the works of Shakespeare with the writings of other contemporaries.  But could LSA be applied to interviews investigating economic decision making behaviour and provide meaningful insights? Would it be possible to identify key concepts influencing the decision making process based the common use of key words? Could LSA identify ‘latent authors’ representing distinct, heterogeneous, types of decision making within a society? Noting that the conventional economic wisdom is that society is comprised of a homogenous set of individuals (one type) applying the same decision processes subject to variability environmental conditions (such as wealth) and uncertainty.  To draw on quantum physics – there are no ‘flavours’ or handedness in standard economic theory.

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