An empirical comparison of knowledge and skill in the context of traditional ecological knowledge

Eric P. Kightley, Victoria Reyes-García, Kathryn Demps, Ruth V. Magtanong, Victoria C. Ramenzoni, Gayatri Thampy, Maximilien Gueze, John R. Stepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: We test whether traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about how to make an item predicts a person's skill at making it among the Tsimane' (Bolivia). The rationale for this research is that the failure to distinguish between knowledge and skill might account for some of the conflicting results about the relationships between TEK, human health, and economic development.Methods: We test the association between a commonly-used measure of individual knowledge (cultural consensus analysis) about how to make an arrow or a bag and a measure of individual skill at making these items, using ordinary least-squares regression. The study consists of 43 participants from 3 villages.Results: We find no association between our measures of knowledge and skill (core model, p > 0.5, R2 = .132).Conclusions: While we cannot rule out the possibility of a real association between these phenomena, we interpret our findings as support for the claim that researchers should distinguish between methods to measure knowledge and skill when studying trends in TEK.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 16 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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