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Lecture 10

Lecture 10 Categories and Concepts Detailed Note.docx

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McMaster University
Joe Kim

Psychology Lecture 10: Categories and Concepts Categorization  You see an old man holding a cane on a bus and wonder if you should give him your seat, you get an email from your iPhone about an upcoming assignment and wonder if you should start now, you detect a smell on the bus and wonder who it is coming from  Perhaps the man is actually holding a trekking pole and you decide he is young, the assignment mentioned in the email is worth a major part of your grade so you decide to start immediately, you notice the smell is coming from you and you realized you’ve accidentally put on your girlfriend’s deodorant  Each of these decisions were made more efficiently by your ability to quickly categorize incoming stimuli to that of Young Man, Major Assignment and Harmless Odour  Without the cognitive ability to categorize, every sensory experience would be unique  You would be unable to make connections to the past and be forced to make unique decisions on even the most routine actions Functions of Categorization  Psychologists have defined four basic functions of categorization o Classification  Allows you to treat objects that appear differently as belong together  Ex. Red apple, green apple, yellow apple all classify as “apples” o Understanding  Ex. If we categorized the scene in front of us as two people yelling, we immediately understand they are in a fight and do not need our opinion o Predicting  By categorizing your current experience and comparing it to similar experiences in memory, you can make predictions about your current situation  Ex. If you know the creature in front of you is a dog, you can predict that it would like to be scratched behind the ears o Communication  Many of the words in our language refer to some sort of category (sport, furniture) and using the category names allow for efficient communication  The feeling that something must be simple because you are good at it is called the Illusion of the Expert o Ex. Tying your shoe may be child’s play to you, but not so for a child o String Theory may be child’s play to a theoretical physicist, but not to you Rules  For simple rules, we are most often susceptible to the Illusion of the Expert  We may make a rule that is often too broad and thus includes objects we did not intend to include  Ex. How to categorize a bachelor o A simple rule to define bachelor would be an unmarried male o However, this rule also includes the Pope and a 6 year old boy, both of which fit the rule, but do not fit our typical image of a bachelor Prototype Theory  Prototype theory suggests that we categorize objects by comparing them to an internal representation of the category called a prototype  Prototypes are thought to be the average or “best” member of the category  Ex. Picture a fruit, perhaps an image of an apple or orange comes to mind  Picture a bird, perhaps a picture of a robin comes to mind  Everyone has a prototype that quickly comes to mind for particular categories  Prototypes are formed through experience and can be very personal because all the objects you’ve previously encountered are averaged together  According to the theory, you categorize new objects by comparing them to your prototypes  Ex. While on vacation in the tropics, you come across some interesting flora you’ve never seen before o Is the new object a tree? o To answer this question, you automatically compare the new object to your tree prototype o The further away this object is to the tree prototype, the less likely it is to be categorized as a tree  Evidence supporting the theory o In a classical study, subjects were asked to verify whether a series of statements were true o To statement’s like “a robin is a bird”, subjects responded quickly o However, when asked to verify statements like “a penguin is a bird”, subjects responded significantly slower o This suggests that more typical category members, which are likely closer to the prototype, are categorized more quickly and easily than atypical category members  Evidence against the theory
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