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J Exp Psychol Gen. 1998 Dec;127(4):331-54.

Referential communication and category acquisition.

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Department of Psychology, Columbia University, USA.


Explanations of category coherence include that categories reflect feature correlations in the world, that the human conceptual system is designed to create systematic categories, and that people have theories about the world that bind together seemingly unrelated features. The authors have suggested that the need to establish reference in communication also influences category coherence. This proposal was tested in 2 studies involving a referential communication task. In these studies, consistency was promoted between individuals by communication, which synchronized the category structures of different people. Further, people were focused on the commonalities of objects and on the differences related to the commonalities by communication--a pattern that is compatible with what has been observed in existing categories. These results suggest that categorization research must incorporate communication tasks into the canon of methodologies used to study category structure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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