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Turinex: A Social Science Tool to Help Understand and Predict

Sustainable Consumption
Andrew Berardy Arizona State University,
Dr. Thomas Seager Arizona State University,
Dr. Evan Selinger Rochester Institute of Technology,
Russell Uhl Rochester Institute of Technology,
Abstract. Expertise exists and is developed in stages representing unique ranges along a
continuum starting at novice and culminating at expert. Consumers must decipher the truth
behind competing claims of environmental and social responsibility. Over time, those who are
consistently conscientious regarding their purchasing decisions form a new expertise of
sustainable consumption. For example, a person who decides to become vegan will gain
knowledge and experience over time in all aspects of their life, leading to the acquisition of
expertise in being vegan. This paper presents a case study of expertise in vegans, using a
software program developed for determining levels of expertise, TURINEX (Test of Ubiquitous
through Real or Interactional Expertise), to demonstrate that long-term vegans are in fact expert
vegans. Testing vegan participants against vegetarian subjects and against omnivores using
TURINEX has the potential to establish vegans as having skill and knowledge relevant to their
field, or vegan expertise, and may also show that such expertise exists and develops along a
continuum. TURINEX testing involves a judge from the target expertise of veganism asking
questions of their own making via computer to isolated participants (one vegan, one vegetarian
and one omnivore) who are told to pretend to be vegans (or in the case of the vegan, to answer
naturally). After a number of tests, if the judges are consistently able to correctly identify
vegans, vegetarians and omnivores, then there is support for the idea that veganism is an
expertise. Transcripts of the sessions are then analyzed to find out what motivates the high
levels of dedication exhibited by many vegans. Despite a low number of initial tests, preliminary
results demonstrate that the software is functional, research subjects understand the protocol,
and results can be interpreted both qualitatively and quantitatively. As more tests are performed,
the question of veganism as an expertise existing along a continuum will either be supported or
contradicted by results. Analysis of transcripts should also provide insight into what might
motivate sustainable consumption.
Introduction. Expertise exists and is developed along a continuum, such as that described by
model proposed by Stuart Dreyfus in which people must progress through five distinct stages
to become experts (Dreyfus 2004). Unlike Dreyfus model, in which stages of expertise are
attached to hands-on experience, Harry Collins research regarding expertise acknowledges
Proceedings of the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies (ISSN 2329-9169) is
published annually by the Sustainable Conoscente Network. Melissa Bilec and J un-ki Choi, co-editors.
Copyright 2013 by Andrew Berardy, Thomas P Seager, Evan Selinger, Russell Uhl. Licensed under CC-BY
Cite As:
Turinex: A Social Science Tool to Help Understand and Predict Sustainable Consumption. Proc. ISSST, Andrew
Berardy, Thomas P Seager, Evan Selinger, Russell Uhl. v1 (2013)
potential for a person to gain linguistic competence in a skill simply through interacting with
experts in the target expertise (Collins 2004). Once this competence has advanced to a level at
which a person can converse expertly about an expertise without being able to practice it, they
can be said to have interactional expertise (Collins 2004). This skill is highly useful for
transdisciplinary research, such as sustainability, but can also be applied to members of certain
unique social groups, which can be said to have expertise. In fact, IE is required in the process
of developing any expertise, and is necessary for all genuinely interdisciplinary collaborations
(Collins et al. 2007, Gorman 2002, and Selinger et al. 2007).
The Imitation Game. The standard method for determining whether or not a person has IE in a
given area is to run an imitation game. In this game, an expert judge is asked to question two
respondents one of which has the same expertise, and the other of which is the experimental
subject (Collins, et al. 2006). If the judge cannot distinguish between the two, or if the judge
believes the experimental subject is the expert, then the experimental subject can be said to
have interactional expertise. Unfortunately, the nature of this test means that the result is always
binary a person either has interactional expertise or does not. This does not allow for testing
of different levels of expertise, and the implicit conclusion is that a person can have no
expertise, interactional expertise, or contributory (genuine) expertise, but nothing in between. In
addition, the imitation game cannot distinguish between interactional and contributory expertise
(Collins et al. 2006).
Intermediate Interactional Expertise. Expertise exists along a spectrum, and it should be
possible to test for expertise at a level in between none and interactional expertise. This
theoretical expertise is called intermediate interactional expertise (IIE) and it is characterized by
a persons familiarity with an expertise that exceeds that of a layperson but does not meet the
standards of actual IE. IIE requires familiarity with concepts, terminology and experiences
associated with the expertise, but not to the level that an expert could be fooled into thinking the
IIE was a true expert or that the IIE could perform expertly within that area of expertise.
Research Subjects. Vegans are a suitable social group to use as the target expertise for
research on IIE, as they possess an expertise that can be said to develop in stages which are
easily identifiable based on self-reported dietary preferences. Vegans commit to a way of life
that restricts their consumption according to a set of guidelines and shared principles. Almost all
vegans start as omnivores, as this is the dominant dietary preference worldwide. With rare
exceptions, an omnivore can be said to have no expertise in veganism. They might be able to
recognize a vegan product by learning the definition of veganism and reading a nutrition label,
but lack the intuition of an expert characterized in the five stage model (Dreyfus 2004). Most
vegans also pass through a vegetarian stage before becoming vegan, though many stay at this
level either because it satisfies their principles or goals, or because they view veganism as too
restrictive or difficult. If a vegetarian were to pick out a vegan product, they might recognize the
rules intuitively, but would not necessarily recognize a problem or be able to implement a
solution instantly as an expert could (Dreyfus 2004). However, it can be argued that vegetarians
have more expertise in veganism than omnivores, even if they do not have the same level of
expertise as vegans. This places them in the third stage of Dreyfus model, Competence, since
they have not had the positive and negative emotional experiences from success and failure
which help develop intuitive proficiency (Dreyfus 2004). Vegans demonstrate expertise as they
immediately see the problem and how to solve it without having to resort to explicit rules,
strategies or maxims.
Hypothesis. If vegan judges in TURINEX experiments are able to consistently identify vegan
respondents against vegetarian and omnivore respondents, then veganism can be considered a
form of expertise. If vegan judges in TURINEX are not able to consistently distinguish vegan
respondents from vegetarian respondents, but are able to distinguish them from omnivore
respondents, then there is support for the idea that vegetarians possess some expertise in
veganism that omnivores do not. Please see Table 1 for a listing of other possible scenario
outcomes and interpretations, along with explanations.
Investigative Method. Before this research began, there was no method for testing for IIE. A
modified imitation game was the basis for an online software tool developed to allow
researchers to run experiments to test for IIE. This new protocol involves a judge from the target
social group (in this case, a vegan) and three respondents rather than two as in the traditional
imitation game. One respondent belongs to the same social group as the judge (vegans),
another has very limited or no familiarity with this social group (omnivore) and the third
respondent does not belong to this social group, but is familiar with it (vegetarian). The
respondents act as positive and negative control groups, as vegans are members of a shared
social group, which omnivores are clearly not part of. For the purposes of testing, the vegan
respondent represents a positive control, while an omnivore with little or no familiarity with
veganism represents the negative control. A vegetarian who has some to high familiarity with
veganism is the experimental subject.
The judge is instructed to submit text questions to the respondents via the TURINEX software
(which ensures identities are anonymous and transcribes the interaction) in an attempt to
establish whether or not they are also vegan, or if they are familiar with veganism. Respondents
send text answers through the software to ensure anonymity and reduce bias based on
appearance, tone and time to respond, among other factors. The vegan respondent is instructed
to answer honestly, while the other two respondents are instructed to answer as if they were
vegans, trying to fool the judge. The judge is allowed to continue asking questions until they are
satisfied, at which point they make a determination regarding each respondents familiarity with
veganism, rate their level of confidence in this determination, and explain their reasoning.
The transcript of the question and answer dialogue between the judge and respondents is
treated as experimental evidence. Analysis of these transcripts allows researchers to find insight
based on questions and responses regarding of vegans shared social norms, behaviors,
perceptions, barriers and motivations. These factors should contribute to the understanding of
veganism as an expertise. Determinations of expertise level by the judge should also show
whether or not veganism can be considered an expertise, and if vegetarianism represents an IIE,
as outlined in Table 1.
Table 1: Possible outcomes of a TURINEX session and explanations of what they might mean. J
stands for Judge (a vegan), P is positive control (vegan), X is experimental subject (vegetarian) and N is
negative control (omnivore).
Scenarlo !udge's ueLermlnaLlon lnLerpreLaLlon 8eason
lnLermedlaLe lL >x>n x has lnLermedlaLe lL ! can Lell all Lhree
aparL, so x musL have
lnLermedlaLe lL
lnLeracLlonal LxperLlse ~x>n x has lL ! can'L Lell aparL from
x, buL can Lell n ls noL
experL, so x has lL
no LxperLlse >x~n x has no experLlse ! can Lell LhaL x and n
are abouL Lhe same, so
n has no experLlse
no LxperLlse >x<n x has no experLlse ! ldenLlfles as an
experL, buL x cannoL be
sald Lo have any
experLlse slnce ! Lhlnks
x ls less experL Lhan n
lalse LxperL !udge <x>n ! does noL have
experLlse or ls a poor
MeLhod ls flawed
!'s sLaLus as an experL
musL be called lnLo
quesLlon lf x ls a more
convlnclng experL Lhan
. ! conslders x more
experL Lhan n, buL Lhls
cannoL supporL Lhe
ldea of x havlng
ublqulLous LxperLlse ~x~n LxperLlse Lype ls
! can'L Lell an experL
from a non-experL, so
experLlse musL be
lalse LxperL
<x~n does noL have
experLlse or ls a poor
MeLhod ls flawed
's sLaLus as an experL
musL be called lnLo
quesLlon lf x and n are
more convlnclng
experLs Lhan . We
Lherefore cannoL say
wheLher or noL x has
any experLlse
lalse LxperL !udge ~x<n ! does noL have
experLlse or ls a poor
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!'s sLaLus as an experL
musL be called lnLo
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and x. We Lherefore
cannoL say wheLher or
noL x has any experLlse
lalse LxperL !udge <x<n ! does noL have
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!'s sLaLus as an experL
musL be called lnLo
quesLlon lf n ls a more
convlnclng experL Lhan
x, who ls more
convlnclng Lhan .
Results. Only two sessions were run so far, so no generalizable conclusions regarding the idea
of veganism as an expertise or vegetarianism as IIE can be made.
In the first session, the judge correctly identified the vegan, but thought the vegetarian was an
omnivore and that the omnivore was a vegetarian. This corresponds with the scenario in Table
1 indicating that the expertise of veganism is genuine, but that the experimental subject does
not possess any expertise. In the second session, the judge correctly identified the omnivore,
but thought the vegetarian was a vegan and that the vegan was a vegetarian. This corresponds
with the scenario in Table 1 indicating that the judge was not a fit expert judge. Although the
vegan was not consistently identified as vegan, the vegetarian was never correctly identified.
This supports the idea that the vegetarian is somewhere in between no expertise and IE.
Figure 1: The vegetarian respondent was hardest for judges to place into a social group, and was
not correctly identified.
A possible source of bias was the possibility that the judge assumed the three respondents
would be representative of all three of the different categories they were asked to identify from.
That is, they assumed that there would be a vegan, vegetarian and omnivore respondent.
Researchers attempted to avoid this bias by informing judges that the respondents could be any
combination of these categories, but both times judges selected one person for all three
categories. This source of bias could be reduced by performing experiments where there is a
different combination of respondents that does not necessarily have one respondent from each
category every time. If judges continued to identify a vegan, vegetarian and omnivore even in
trials where all three respondents were vegan or all three were omnivore, then the judges could
be assumed to be biased to always select one of each type despite researchers efforts to the
Analysis of transcripts indicated that vegans think of veganism as extending beyond their food
choices, in addition to playing a prominent role in their diet. For example, one question asked
respondents, Do you like going to the zoo? and another asked, What kind of toothpaste do
you use? One judge also emphasized the role of personal wisdom and experience, noting
several times in their explanations that they were a vegan expert. All questions asked and
responses to those questions related to the individual and their experiences rather than social
aspects. This supports the idea that experience is important to vegan identity, but contradicts
the idea that social support groups are necessary or fundamental for the formation of vegan
Many more trials are necessary before any conclusive statements can be made regarding what
TURINEX reveals about veganism as an expertise, vegetarianism as an IIE, or what motivates
and supports veganism. However, trials performed so far may be treated more as a proof of
concept, showing that they can be successfully run and interpreted.
If IIE is shown to be a valid concept, it will be useful for education and training programs meant
to give students a certain level of expertise that can be translated to situations in which they will
be required to draw on multiple areas of IIE, such as interdisciplinary research. Some potential
applications beyond testing expertise in veganism include determining the effectiveness of a
class in training sustainability students in thermodynamics concepts or testing the tacit
knowledge of solar panel design engineers hired into a new firm.
Acknowledgements. The authors would like to acknowledge support from Arizona State
University and Rochester Institute of Technology.
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