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When Intensions Do not Map Onto Extensions: Individual Differences in Conceptualization

Hampton, J. A. & Passanisi, A. (2016). When Intensions Do not Map Onto Extensions: Individual Differences in Conceptualization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(4), pp. 505-523. doi: 10.1037/xlm0000198


Concepts are represented in the mind through knowledge of their extensions (the class of items to which the concept applies) and intensions (features that distinguish that class of items). A common assumption among theories of concepts is that the 2 aspects are intimately related. Hence if there is systematic individual variation in concept representation, the variation should correlate between extensional and intensional measures. A pair of individuals with similar extensional beliefs about a given concept should also share similar intensional beliefs. To test this notion, exemplars (extensions) and features (intensions) of common categories were rated for typicality and importance respectively across 2 occasions. Withinsubject consistency was greater than between-subjects consensus on each task, providing evidence for systematic individual variation. Furthermore, the similarity structure between individuals for each task was stable across occasions. However, across 5 samples, similarity between individuals for extensional judgments did not map onto similarity between individuals for intensional judgments. The results challenge the assumption common to many theories of conceptual representation that intensions determine extensions and support a hybrid view of concepts where there is a disconnection between the conceptual resources that are used for the 2 tasks.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright APA, 2016. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Publisher Keywords: prototype, concept, typicality, features, individual differences
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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