Article details

Research area
Natural language & AI

Cognitive Science Volume 9, Issue 3, July–September 1985, Pages 379–398



The cognitive structure of social categories


Support for the prototype theory of categorization was found in a study of the structure of social categories. Though occupational terms such as DOCTOR are socially defined, they do not have the classical structure their clear definitional origins would predict. Conceptions of social categories are richer and more complex than those of physical object categories and subjects agree upon them. Comparison of various instructions for eliciting attributes of categories showed that whether subjects are asked to define a term, give characteristics, or describe ways they recognize members of categories, the attributes they list contribute to a prototype structure. These data provide evidence against the view that prototype structure is relevant only to an identification procedure and not to the core of concepts, as has been suggested.

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