Toward an ecological theory of concepts

Abstract
Psychology has had difficulty accounting for the creative, context-sensitive manner in which concepts are used. We believe this stems from the view of concepts as identifiers rather than bridges between mind and world that participate in the generation of meaning. This paper summarizes the history and current status of concepts research, and provides a non-technical summary of work toward an ecological approach to concepts. We outline the rationale for applying generalizations of formalisms originally developed for use in quantum mechanics to the modeling of concepts, showing how it is because of the role of context that deep structural similarities exist between the two. A concept is defined not just in terms of exemplary states and their features or properties, but also by the relational structures of these properties, and their susceptibility to change under different contexts. The approach implies a view of mind in which the union of perception and environment drives conceptualization, forging a web of conceptual relations or ‘ecology of mind’.
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