Chapter 9

Laura Thompson: Culture, Personality, and Applied Anthropology
Thomas Weaver

The Challenge of Applied Anthropology
Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson (1905–1999) applied anthropology through a series of positions and consultancies on educational matters with the Government of Guam, the U.S. Navy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Institute for Ethnic Affairs, and other organizations. Trained at the University of California at Berkeley, she also held temporary academic posts at a dozen universities. Although she worked primarily in the Pacific, she is best known for her studies of personality and change among Southwest American Indian groups. In her 1979 Malinowski Award address, Thompson discussed the crisis then being experienced by applied anthropologists due to the political implications of their findings and commented on the experimental, predictive, and self-corrective nature of their research. Despite the doubts of some anthropologists, Thompson maintained that prediction about future behavior and probable outcomes of alternative actions is possible and cited a number of examples from her work and that of others.