On Categorial Membership

Erkenntnis 79 (5):1045-1068 (2014)
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We investigate the family of concepts that an agent comes to know through a set of defining features, and examine the role played by these features in the process of categorization. In a qualitative framework, categorial membership is evaluated through an order relation among the objects at hand, which translates the fact that an object may fall more than another under a given concept. For concepts defined by their features, this global membership order depends on the degree with which each feature applies to the objects of the universe. The passage from these individual membership degrees to a global membership order poses a problem analogous to vote aggregation in social choice theory. This similarity leads to an original solution that is particularly well-adapted to the framework of cognitive psychology. The resulting membership order extends to compound concepts, and provides a good description of the guppy paradox and the conjunction effect



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