Five experiments investigated how people use categories to make inductions about objects whose categorisation is uncertain. Normatively, they should consider all the categories the object might be in and use a weighted combination of information from all the categories: bet-hedging. The experiments presented people with simple, artificial categories and asked them to make an induction about a new object that was most likely in one category but possibly in another. The results showed that the majority of people focused on the (...) most likely category in making inductions, although there was a group of consistently normative responders who used information from both categories (about 25% of our college population). Across experiments the overall pattern of results suggests that performance in the task is improved not by understanding the underlying principles of bet-hedging but by increasing the likelihood that multiple categories are in working memory at the time of the induction. We discuss implications for improving everyday inductions. (shrink)
Six experiments investigated variables predicted to influence subjects’ tendency to classify items by a single property instead of overall similarity, following the paradigm of Norenzayan et al., who found that European Americans tended to give more “logical” rule-based responses. However, in five experiments with Mechanical Turk subjects and undergraduates at an American university, we found a consistent preference for similarity-based responding. A sixth experiment with Korean undergraduates revealed an effect of instructions, also reported by Norenzayan et al., in which classification (...) instructions led to majority rule-based responding but similarity instructions led to overall similarity grouping. Our American subjects showed no such difference and used similarity more overall. We conclude that Americans do not have a preference for rule responding in classification and discuss the differences between tasks that reliably show strong rule or unidimensional preferences in contrast to this classification paradigm. (shrink)
In his enormously influential The Modularity of Mind, Jerry Fodor (1983) proposed that the mind was divided into input modules and central processes. Much subsequent research focused on the modules and whether processes like speech perception or spatial vision are truly modular. Much less attention has been given to Fodor's writing on the central processes, what would today be called higher‐level cognition. In “Fodor's First Law of the Nonexistence of Cognitive Science,” he argued that central processes are “bad candidates for (...) scientific study” and would resist attempts at empirical analysis. This essay evaluates his argument for this remarkable claim, concluding that although central processes may well be “messier” than input modules, this does not mean that they cannot be studied and understood. The article briefly reviews the scientific progress made in understanding central processes in the 35 years since the book was published, showing that Fodor's prediction is clearly falsified by massive advances in topics like decision making and analogy. The essay concludes that Fodor's Law was not based on a clear argument for why the complexities of central systems could not be studied but was likely based on intuitions and preferences that were common in psychology at the time. (shrink)
The problems that Millikan addresses in theories of concepts arise from an extensional view of concepts and word meaning. If instead one assumes that concepts are psychological entities intended to explain human behavior and thought, many of these problems dissolve.
Research on children's and adults' concepts embodies very different assumptions of how concepts are structured, as reflected in their experimental designs. Developmental studies seem to assume that categories contain highly similar objects that can all be identified from one or two examples. If concepts are more like those tested in adult experiments, research on word learning may be misleading.