Domain differences in absolute judgments of category membership: Evidence for an essentialist account of categorization

Gil Diesendruck, Susan A. Gelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations

Abstract

There has been some debate about the correspondence between typicality gradients and category membership. The present study investigates the relationship between these two measures in the domains of animals and artifacts. Forty-two adults judged the degree of typicality or category membership of 293 animals and artifacts. The subjects' tendency for animals, but not for artifacts, was to make more absolute ratings on category membership (i.e., judging exemplars as definitely members or definitely not members of their respective category) than on typicality. More importantly, at almost every level of typicality, subjects were more likely to make absolute judgments of category membership for animals than for artifacts. These results indicate that people treat category membership of animals as relatively absolute (which best fits an essentialist model of categorization) and treat category membership of artifacts as relatively graded (which best fits a prototype model of categorization). These domain differences add crucial supporting evidence for claims about the domain-specificity of essentialism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-346
Number of pages9
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1999

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