The Virtual Anthropology / Linguistics Lab is an interactive science lab created in Flash. As of January 1st, 2021 Flash was retired and is no longer supported by Internet browsers. The lab is still available in a modified "video" version (an .mp4 file). In this version you watch a person going through the entire lab, click-by-click. By pausing the video to read all the text and to examine all images and activities, you will have a very similar experience to doing the lab yourself. Detailed instructions follow below.

Virtual Anthropology / Linguistics Lab

James Stanlaw: Designer, Storyboards & Primary Author
Mike Romanzow: Artwork, Programming
Kevin Stewart: Artwork, Programming
David Leech Anderson: Storyboards & Author
Bob Arrigo: Author
Kari Cox: Artwork, Programming, Storyboards
Chris Tice: Artwork, Programming

Students become field anthropologists and conduct a study in cognitive linguistics focusing on color terms. Virtual books introduce the physiology of color perception, the physics of light, and current methods of data gathering using a Munsell Color Chart. Students start by being a subject in their own study and then interview three virtual informants from three different cultures. Data from 10 different cultures allow students to search for similarities and differences in the way that different cultures cut-up the world into color categories. This exploration will lead the student into the heart of the long-standing dispute between relativism and universalism. This module not only serves as an introduction to cognitive linguistics, but it provides an empirical study that can be used to illuminate the traditional philosophical dispute between realism and non-realism (e.g., idealism, relativism, instrumentalism).


This was originally an interactive virtual lab built in Flash where the user makes all the decisions and in the process learns a great deal about cognitive linguistics by exploring the vast differences in how different cultures use color concepts. Flash was officially retired at the end of 2020 so the lab could no longer be used as originally designed. To preserve much of the experience of doing the lab oneself and to preserve all of the content a user could learn from the doing the lab, we videotaped a complete lab experience. You will experience all aspects of the lab and will have to concentrate just as intensely if you want to master all the elements.


This is a brief introduction to the interactive, Flash version of the lab that gives an overview of the content. It is for instructors not for students because it has spoilers that will ruin the fun of discovery.

Introduction to Anthropology Lab (5:47 minutes)


There are two components to this video-version of the virtual anthropology lab: (1) A video going through the entire lab experience, and (2) supporting materials in the form of webpage content and a downloable worksheet for recording your own data summaries and data analysis. You will not be able to complete the lab without engaging with all these elements. Completing the lab will take considerably longer than the running time of the video. As the researcher, you must pause the video dozens of times to explore and analyze the data and to record your assessments in the Data Analysis Worksheet.


Open this video in a browser. Pay careful attention to everything that happens on the screen and PAUSE THE VIDEO to read all of the text. The video purposely gives no time for reading text so each person can pause the video for as long as is needed. The text gives instructions for things you must do as well as information you must record and analyze. Some of the text exists on separate webpages that is easier to read (see Part Two below).


In the video you will see three virtual books sitting on the desk in the back left corner of the anthropology lab. The first two books have chapters that are an integral part of the lab that must be read carefully and in their entirety if the user is going to finish the tasks in the "Data Analysis Worksheet." Filling out all the sections in the worksheet, including the recording and summarizing of data and the analyzing of that data, is the primary purpose of the lab and is its main accomplishment. Chapter 2 of Book 1 is the Worksheet itself, a .doc file.

There are two ways to read the virtual books in the lab. The most convenient way for most people will be to open each chapter as a webpage in a separate browser tab or browser window. The link to each chapter is found below. A second way to read the chapters is in the video itself. The video scrolls down each chapter page, spending only a few seconds on each paragraph. Pause the video to read what is on the screen or, if you prefer, open the webpages below that have the book chapters.

BOOK 1: Virtual Anthropology / Linguistics Lab Handbook

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Virtual Anthropology Lab

Chapter 2: Data Analysis Worksheet (MS WORD DOCUMENT)

NOTE: This is a Word DOC, not an html page. The user has not completed the lab unless she has downloaded this document and filled out all sections -- either in hardcopy or as an electronic file.

BOOK 2: Exploring Color Terms as an Anthropologist

Chapter 1: The Physics of Light and Color

Chapter 2: Colors and Cultures

NOTE: When you have read all the content in Books 1 & 2, watched and understood everything in the video, and filled out all parts of the Data Analysis Worksheet, you have completed the lab. Go to Book 3 for further study.
BOOK 3: Extended Reference & Further Readings

If you have finished the Virtual Anthropology Lab and want to dig deeper into the academic debate over the nature of color terms, the primary author of the virtual lab, James Stanlaw, has written a 74-page paper on the topic that is available here:

Colors and Culture: Language, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, and the Americanist Tradition in Anthropology, Linguistics, and Cognitive Science (PDF DOCUMENT) by James Stanlaw

This module was supported by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561.