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Concept Appraisal

Hampton, J. A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0363-8232, Thorne, S., Quilty-Dunn, J., Smortchkova, J. and Shea, N. (2021). Concept Appraisal. Cognitive Science,


This paper reports the first empirical investigation of the hypothesis that epistemic appraisals form part of the structure of concepts. To date, studies of concepts have focused on the way concepts encode properties of objects, and the way those features are used in categorisation and in other cognitive tasks.
Philosophical considerations show the importance of also considering how a thinker assesses the epistemic value of beliefs and other cognitive resources, and in particular, concepts.

We demonstrate that there are multiple, reliably judged, dimensions of epistemic appraisal of concepts. Four of these dimensions are accounted for by a common underlying factor of how well people believe they understand a concept. Further studies show how dimensions of concept appraisal relate to other aspects of concepts. First, they relate directly to the hierarchical organization of concepts, reflecting the increase in specificity from superordinate to basic and subordinate levels. Second, they predict inductive choices incategory-based induction.

Our results suggest that epistemic appraisals of concepts form a psychologically important yet previously overlooked aspect of the structure of concepts. These findings will be important in understanding why individuals sometimes abandon and replace certain concepts; why social groups do so, for example during a ‘scientific revolution’; and how we can facilitate such changes when we engage in deliberate ‘conceptual engineering’ for epistemic, social and political purposes.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Hampton, J. A. , Thorne, S., Quilty-Dunn, J., Smortchkova, J. and Shea, N. (2021). Concept Appraisal. Cognitive Science, which is to be published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Publisher Keywords: concepts; categorization; conceptual engineering; epistemic appraisal; metacognition; essentialism; dual-character
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2021 10:25
Text - Accepted Version
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