The modifier effect and property mutability

Abstract

The modifier effect is the reduction in perceived likelihood of a generic property sentence, when the head noun is modified. We investigated the prediction that the modifier effect would be stronger for mutable than for central properties, without finding evidence for this predicted interaction over the course of five experiments. However Experiment 6, which provided a brief context for the modified concepts to lend them greater credibility, did reveal the predicted interaction. It is argued that the modifier effect arises primarily from a general lack of confidence in generic statements about the typical properties of unfamiliar concepts. Neither prototype nor classical models of concept combination receive support from the phenomenon. 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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