One or two dimensions in spontaneous classification: A simplicity approach

  • Pothos E
  • Close J
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When participants are asked to spontaneously categorize a set of items, they typically produce unidimensional classifications, i.e., categorize the items on the basis of only one of their dimensions of variation. We examine whether it is possible to predict unidimensional vs. two-dimensional classification on the basis of the abstract stimulus structure, by employing Pothos and Chater's simplicity model of spontaneous categorization [Pothos, E. M., & Chater, N. (2002). A simplicity principle in unsupervised human categorization. Cognitive Science, 26, 303-343]. The simplicity model provides a quantitative measure of how intuitive a particular classification is. With objects represented in two dimensions, we propose that a unidimensional classification will be preferred if it is more intuitive than all possible two-dimensional ones, and vice versa. Empirical results supporting this proposal are reported. Implications for Goodman's paradox are discussed. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Similarity
  • Simplicity
  • Unidimensional/multidimensional sorting
  • Unsupervised categorization

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  • Emmanuel M. Pothos

  • James Close

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