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Chapter 9 notes.docx

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University of Guelph
PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

Cognitive Psychology: Chapter 9 Definitions - What do we know when we know what a dog is? Or what a chair is? - Ordinary concepts like these are the building blocks out of which all knowledge is created - As we’ll see, describing even a simple concept is more difficult than one might guess - One possibility is that our concept of a dog is a definition - A dog might be defined as a mammal with four legs that barks and wags it tail - But what about dogs that do not bark, or a dog that lost one leg in an accident? Aren’t they still dogs? - For any definition, we can always find such exceptions - Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953) developed the problem of how to define “game” - For any set of definitive features, we can think of exceptions that are still considered games  Played by children  Engaged in for fun  Has rules  Involves multiple people  Is competitive  Is played during leisure - Wittgenstein proposed that members of a category have a family resemblance to each other - Dark hair, glasses, a mustache, and a big nose are typical for this family but do not define the family - Returning to the dog example, this is similar to saying that a dog probably has four legs, probably barks, and probably wags its tail - And that a creature without these features is unlikely to be a dog - There may be no features that are shared by all dogs or all games, just as there are no features shared by every member of a family - However, the more characteristic features an object has, the more likely we are to believe it is part of the category Prototypes and Typicality Effects - In Rosch’s prototype theory, rather than thinking about definitions that define the boundaries of a category, the category is characterized by a central member that possesses all of the characteristic features (the prototype) - Most commonly, the prototype will be an average of various category members that have been encountered - Notice that different people will have different prototypes depending on their experiences - For instance, consider the prototypical house in North America compared to Japan - One implication of prototype theory is that categories have fuzzy boundaries, with no clear specification of membership and non-membership - Another implication is graded membership, the idea that some members (those closer to the prototype) are “better” members of the category than others - For instance, consider the category “red.” Are some of these reds better examples than others? - Recall the sentence-verification task from Chapter 8 - We learned that a sentence like “Robins are birds” can be verified faster than a sentence like “Robins are animals” - This is because only one associative link has to be traversed in the first example, but two links must be for the second - The sentence-verification task can also be used to demonstrate typicality effects - A sentence like “Robins are birds” can be verified faster than a sentence like “Penguins are birds” - This is because robins share more features with the prototypical “bird” than penguins do - We can also demonstrate typicality effects using production tasks - If we ask people to name as many birds as they can, they typically start with category members that are closest to the prototype (e.g., robin) - We can also demonstrate typicality effects using picture-identification tasks - If we ask people “does the next picture show you a bird,” response times will be fastest for pictures of category members that are closest to the prototype (e.g., robin) - The more prototypical category members are also “privileged” in rating tasks - Other studies suggest that when we think about a category, we are really thinking about the prototype for the category - Typicality also influences judgments about attractiveness. Which fish is the most attractive? - Just as certain category members seem to be privileged, so are certain types of category - Rosch argued that there is a basic level of categorization that is neither too general nor too specific, which we tend to use in speaking and reasoning about categories - Here, “chair” is the basic-level category, as opposed to “furniture” (more general, or superordinate) or “wooden desk chair” (more specific, or subordinate) - Basic-level categories are usually represented in language by a single word - In naming an object, we are likely to use the basic level - It is easier to explain what features are common to members of basic-level categories than for other levels - Memory errors tend to favour the basic level  A sentence about “jeans” may be misremembered as “pants,” changing from subordinate to basic level  A sentence about “animals” may be misremembered as “dogs,” changi
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