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Psychol Bull. 2001 Nov;127(6):827-52.

Necessity and natural categories.

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Psychology Department, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


Our knowledge of natural categories includes beliefs not only about what is true of them but also about what would be true if the categories had properties other than (or in addition to) their actual ones. Evidence about these beliefs comes from three lines of research: experiments on category-based induction, on hypothetical transformations of category members, and on definitions of kind terms. The 1st part of this article examines results and theories arising from each of these research streams. The 2nd part considers possible unified theories for this domain, including theories based on ideals and norms. It also contrasts 2 broad frameworks for modal category information: one focusing on beliefs about intrinsic or essential properties, the other focusing on interacting causal relations.

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