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Concepts and Categories

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Western University
Psychology 2135A/B
Robert Brown

Lecture 9 - Concepts and Categories - Tulving distinguished semantic and episodic memory - episodic memory is memory we have in virtue of being us; not public knowledge - semantic memory is memory that we know in virtue of growing up in a culture; public knowledge - theoretical distinction - another theoretical distinction is procedural memory (Anderson) - semantic memory becomes a procedural memory after further development - also argued that when episodic memory loses source memory, it becomes semantic memory - distinction between semantic and episodic is useful only when we can distinguish a memory; has heuristic value but possibly may not be true Detailed vs. Abstract Representations - need both for survival - we need detailed, highly-specific representations of objects e.g., locations, characteristics - need different mental representations for different modality functions - different grasps e.g., precision grasp (fingers), whole-hand grasp - detailed representations emphasize differences - make it easier to do certain actions directed toward the stimulus - but also more difficult to associate the stimulus with other stimuli - detailed representations may obscure important similarities between objects - to learn lessons for future reference, we need less detailed, more abstract representations that encode what is most significant and enduring about a stimulus - detailed representations for transient characteristics; abstract for enduring ones - abstract representations emphasize similarities between current stimulus and others - allow us to generalize a lesson; make it easier to form associations with what we already know - the amount of detail in a representation influences how long it lasts in mind - most abstract representation of an object is the name of the object - less detail, longer lasting time - very detailed representations only useful for planning and executing current behaviour; any change makes detail worthless, can get in the way (interference) - more exposure to aspects that remain constant; useful across situations - Goodale & Milner (Two Visual Systems Hypothesis) - two visual systems that evolved for different purposes - dorsal system evolved for visual guidance of action (where is it) - ventral system evolved for perception of objects (what is it) - patient who lost ventral system but not dorsal system (things look cloudy, but can precisely pick up things) - ventral system says Ebbinghaus illusion has different sized circles; dorsal system was immune to illusion and had same movement to picking up circles - dorsal for detail; ventral to abstract - argues dorsal is old (original purpose of vision); ventral is new - abstract representations are familiar because appear across many situations; likely to use again - concepts are representations that are more abstract, less detailed Concepts and Categories - concepts are mental representations of some thing where much knowledge typically thought relevant to that thing is stored - categories are things in the world that is a class or group of similar things - to some extent, structure of natural categories is given by world; some extent, it is impressed upon the world by human cognition - we can create categories when we need them - Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin (1956) - concepts allow us to generalize lessons - concepts reduce complexity of the environment (not everything is a new thing) - concepts provide a guide to appropriate action - concepts make hierarchical knowledge available (knowledge on multiple levels e.g., dogs, animals, mammals) - categorization is process of deciding which details matter and which do not The Classical View (Not widely accepted) - category membership is determined by a set of defining (necessary and sufficient) properties - concept is not a representation of specific examples but a list of characteristics - membership in a category is clear-cut Problems with the Classical View - no defining features for many natural kind categories e.g., what makes a game a game - lists have many problems - membership is not always clear-cut e.g., chair, when is one dead, alive, etc. - typicality effect (graded membership) - Eleanor Rosch report that people judge members of a category as differing in "goodness" or typicality; typicality influences responses in the sentence verification task - some members of a category are better members of a category than others e.g., sparrow vs. chicken for bird category - takes longer to say YES to chicken is a bird than sparrow is a bird - difference in reaction time is a typicality effect Alternative Views Rosch's Hierarchical model - categorical knowledge is organized in a hierarchy: subordinate, basic, superordinate - this is a relation of containing e.g., superordinate contains basic things - model is economical way to store information; only store information on highest level instead of on every level - basic level is level that we use to label something in ordinary case; level where the thing is very similar to other things in that level; not too general and too specific; level that gives the most information - basic level is the one children learn first - in basic level, things look like other things in same category but not like things in other categories; this quality is not true at other levels Prototype Theory - a prototype is an ideal
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