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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2001 Sep;27(5):1261-75.

Abstract coherent categories.

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Department of Psychology, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


Many studies have demonstrated the importance of the knowledge that interrelates features in people's mental representation of categories and that makes our conception of categories coherent. This article focuses on abstract coherent categories, coherent categories that are also abstract because they are defined by relations independently of any features. Four experiments demonstrate that abstract coherent categories are learned more easily than control categories with identical features and statistical structure, and also that participants induced an abstract representation of the category by granting category membership to exemplars with completely novel features. The authors argue that the human conceptual system is heavily populated with abstract coherent concepts, including conceptions of social groups, societal institutions, legal, political, and military scenarios, and many superordinate categories, such as classes of natural kinds.

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