Granularity in taxonomy, time, and space

Jeffrey M. Zacks and Barbara Tversky

in Motion Encoding in Language and Space

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199661213
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745348 | DOI:

Series: Explorations in Language and Space

Granularity in taxonomy, time, and space

Show Summary Details


The objects of language and thought establish the granularity at which cognition operates. Granularity can vary with respect to taxonomic classification, time, and space. One might suppose that basic cognitive operations such as judgments of similarity or mental imagery would be invariant over these changes in scale, but this appears not to be the case. This chapter reviews results from three domains that show how changes in grain lead to changes in the form of cognitive operations. In judgments about object features, small and medium taxonomic scales are heavily depending on an object’s parts, but large taxonomic scales are not. In perceiving events on a small temporal scale people pay close attention to actions on individual objects, but on a larger temporal scale they pay more attention to the particular objects involved. In spatial reasoning about small objects people tend to imagine objects being moved by an external force, but when reasoning about large environments they tend to imagine themselves moving within the environment. Thus, the computational form of cognitive operations appears to depend on the taxonomic, spatial, and temporal scale of the objects of those operations.

Keywords: event perception; spatial reasoning; taxonomy; partonomy

Chapter.  4987 words. 

Subjects: Psycholinguistics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.