Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-594f858ff7-hf9kg Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-11T00:48:12.561Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "corePageComponentUseShareaholicInsteadOfAddThis": true, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

15 - Comments on models and categorization theories: the razor's edge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Emmanuel M. Pothos
Swansea University
Andy J. Wills
University of Exeter
Get access


If I may make a personal remark, one sign of old age is that people ask you to write commentaries on new(er) work. In the present case the invitation for me to write something may be linked to the publication of the Medin and Schaffer (1978) context theory of categorization model more than 30 years ago and/or the Smith and Medin (1981), Categories and Concepts book, almost as old. This ought to provide enough distance to view cumulative progress in this area of research and theory. Of course there was more than a little earlier work by Posner and Keele (1968), Reed (1973), and Smith, Shoben and Rips (1974) relevant to models and by Rosch, Mervis and others (e.g. Rosch, 1973, 1975; Rosch & Mervis, 1975; Rosch et al., 1976) laying out basic levels and goodness of example or typicality effects that reverberated through the cognitive sciences. The basic levels work was so important that it now has the status of being presupposed in developmental studies on the interaction of language and conceptual development (e.g., Waxman, 1989, 2002; Waxman & Lidz, 2006).

One way of assessing progress in an area is to evaluate how it is doing with respect to narrowness and insularity versus breadth. Cutting edge research seems like something that is inherently good, but it may be useful to examine what is being cut and how that edge is related to broader configurations.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Asch, S. (1952). Social Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burnett, R., Medin, D., Ross, N., & Blok, S. (2005). Ideal is typical. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59 (1), 5–10.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Feeney, A., & Heit, E. (eds.) (2007). Inductive Reasoning. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRef
Gagné, C. L., & Shoben, E. J. (2002). Priming relations in ambiguous noun-noun combinations. Memory & Cognition, 30, 637–646.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gauthier, I., & Tarr, M. J. (1997). Becoming a ‘Greeble’ expert: exploring mechanisms for face recognition. Vision Research, 37, 1673–1682.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Goldstone, R. L. (1998). Perceptual learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 585–612.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavior and Brain Sciences, 33, 61–83.
Markman, A. B., & Gentner, D. (2000). Structure-mapping in the comparison process. American Journal of Psychology, 113 (4), 501–538.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Medin, D. L., & Atran, S. (2004). The native mind: biological categorization and reasoning in development and across cultures. Psychological Review, 111, 960–983.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Medin, D. L., Goldstone, R. L., & Gentner, D. (1993). Respects for similarity. Psychological Review, 100, 254–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Medin, D. L., Lynch, E. B., Coley, J. D., & Atran, S. (1997). Categorization and reasoning among tree experts: do all roads lead to Rome?Cognitive Psychology, 32, 49–96.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Medin, D. L., & Schaffer, M. M. (1978). A context theory of classification learning. Psychological Review, 85, 207–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murphy, G. L. (2004). The Big Book of Concepts. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.Google Scholar
Murphy, G. L., & Allopenna, P. D. (1994). The locus of knowledge effects in concept learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 904–919.Google ScholarPubMed
Posner, M. I., & Keele, S. W. (1968). On the genesis of abstract ideas. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 77 (3), 353–363.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Reed, S. K. (1973). Psychological Processes in Pattern Recognition. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Rehder, B., & Murphy, G. L. (2003). A knowledge-resonance (KRES) model of category learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 759–784.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rosch, E. (1973). Natural categories. Cognitive Psychology, 4, 328–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosch, E. (1975). Cognitive representations of semantic categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104, 192–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosch, E., & Mervis, C. B. (1975). Family resemblances: studies in the internal structure of categories. Cognitive Psychology, 7, 573–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosch, E., Mervis, C. B., Gray, W., Johnson, D., & Boyes-Braem, P. (1976). Basic objects in natural categories. Cognitive Psychology, 8, 382–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, N., Medin, D. L., Coley, J. D., & Atran, S. (2003). Cultural and experiential differences in the development of folkbiological induction. Cognitive Development, 18, 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shepard, R. N., Hovland, C. I., & Jenkins, H. M. (1961). Learning and memorization of classifications. Psychological Monographs, 75 (13).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, E. E., & Medin, D. L. (1981). Categories and Concepts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, E. E., Shoben, E. J., & Rips, L. J., (1974). Structure and process in semantic memory: a featural model for semantic decisions. Psychological Review, 1, 214–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Storms, G., Boeck, P., & Rits, W. (2000). Prototype and exemplar-based information on natural language categories. Journal of Memory and Language, 42, 51–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waxman, S. R. (1989). Linking language and conceptual development: linguistic cues and the construction of conceptual hierarchies. Genetic Epistemologist, 17 (2), 13–20.Google Scholar
Waxman, S. R. (2002). Links between object categorization and naming: origins and emergence in human infants. In Rakison, D. H. & Oakes, L. M. (eds.), Early Category and Concept Development: Making Sense of the Blooming, Buzzing Confusion. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Waxman, S. R., & Lidz, , J. (2006). Early word learning. In Kuhn, D. & Siegler, R. (eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology (6th edition, Vol. 2, pp. 299–335). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
Wisniewski, E. J. (1997). When concepts combine. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 4, 167–183.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wisniewski, E. J., & Medin, D. L. (1994). The fiction and nonfiction of features. In Michalski, R. S. & Tecuci, G. D. (eds.), Machine Learning: A Multistrategy Approach (Vol. 4, pp. 63–84). San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats