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ANALYZING PILE SORT DATA: MDS

If you examine it carefully, you’ll see that, despite the 1s and 0s, there is not a shred of math in table 16.2. It contains nothing more than the information in the bottom half of figure 16.2, displayed as 1s and 0s, and there is nothing numerical about those 1s and 0s. They simply stand for oranges and papayas and so on. But by substituting 1s and 0s for the names of the items, we can use software to look for patterns in the informant’s pile sort data.

Figure 16.3 is a multidimensional scaling, or MDS, of these data. MDS is one of several visualizations methods now widely used in all the sciences—methods that look for patterns in numerical data and display those patterns graphically. The MDS in figure 16.3 shows the pattern in table 16.2. That is, it shows how one informant sees the similarities among the 18 fruits.

Look carefully at table 16.2. There are 1s in the cells 2-11, 2-13, and 11-13. This is because the informant put orange (2), lemon (11), and grapefruit (13) in one pile and nothing else in that pile. This behavior is presented graphically in figure 16.3 with the orange-lemon-grapefruit cluster shown separated from other clusters.

 
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