The Big Book of Concepts

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MIT Press, Jan 30, 2004 - Psychology - 568 pages

Concepts embody our knowledge of the kinds of things there are in the world. Tying our past experiences to our present interactions with the environment, they enable us to recognize and understand new objects and events. Concepts are also relevant to understanding domains such as social situations, personality types, and even artistic styles. Yet like other phenomenologically simple cognitive processes such as walking or understanding speech, concept formation and use are maddeningly complex.

Research since the 1970s and the decline of the "classical view" of concepts have greatly illuminated the psychology of concepts. But persistent theoretical disputes have sometimes obscured this progress. The Big Book of Concepts goes beyond those disputes to reveal the advances that have been made, focusing on the major empirical discoveries. By reviewing and evaluating research on diverse topics such as category learning, word meaning, conceptual development in infants and children, and the basic level of categorization, the book develops a much broader range of criteria than is usual for evaluating theories of concepts.


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Page 13 - But to the child the process of arriving at this meaning or concept has been largely unconscious. He has never said to himself, "Lo! I shall proceed to discover the characteristics common to all dogs but not enjoyed by cats and teddybears.
Page 118 - And given an actor with the motor programs for sitting, it is a fact of the perceived world that objects with the perceptual attributes of chairs are more likely to have functional sit-on-able-ness than objects with the appearance of cats. In short, combinations of what we perceive as the attributes of real objects do not occur uniformly. Some pairs, triples, etc., are quite probable, appearing in combination sometimes with one, sometimes another attribute; others are rare; others logically cannot...
Page 32 - (...) we viewed natural semantic categories as networks of overlapping attributes; the basic hypothesis was that members of a category come to be viewed as prototypical of the category as a whole in proportion to the extent to which they bear a family resemblance to (have attributes which overlap those of) other members of the category.
Page 123 - The aim of the present research is to show that the world does contain "intrinsically separate things." The world is structured because real-world attributes do not occur independently of each other. Creatures with feathers are more likely also to have wings than creatures with fur, and objects with the visual appearance of chairs are more likely to have functional sit-on-ableness than objects with the appearance of cats.
Page 520 - Ashby, FG, Alfonso-Reese, LA, Turken, AU, & Waldron, EM (1998). A neuropsychological theory of multiple systems in category learning.

About the author (2004)

Gregory L. Murphy is Professor of Psychology at New York University.

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