Category induction and representation

In [Book Chapter] (1987)
Abstract
A provisional model is presented in which categorical perception (CP) provides our basic or elementary categories. In acquiring a category we learn to label or identify positive and negative instances from a sample of confusable alternatives. Two kinds of internal representation are built up in this learning by "acquaintance": (1) an iconic representation that subserves our similarity judgments and (2) an analog/digital feature-filter that picks out the invariant information allowing us to categorize the instances correctly. This second, categorical representation is associated with the category name. Category names then serve as the atomic symbols for a third representational system, the (3) symbolic representations that underlie language and that make it possible for us to learn by "description." Connectionism is one possible mechainsm for learning the sensory invariants underlying categorization and naming. Among the implications of the model are (a) the "cognitive identity of (current) indiscriminables": Categories and their representations can only be provisional and approximate, relative to the alternatives encountered to date, rather than "exact." There is also (b) no such thing as an absolute "feature," only those features that are invariant within a particular context of confusable alternatives. Contrary to prevailing "prototype" views, however, (c) such provisionally invariant features must underlie successful categorization, and must be "sufficient" (at least in the "satisficing" sense) to subserve reliable performance with all-or-none, bounded categories, as in CP. Finally, the model brings out some basic limitations of the "symbol-manipulative" approach to modeling cognition, showing how (d) symbol meanings must be functionally grounded in nonsymbolic, "shape-preserving" representations -- iconic and categorical ones. Otherwise, all symbol interpretations are ungrounded and indeterminate. This amounts to a principled call for a psychophysical (rather than a neural) "bottom-up" approach to cognition.
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