Artificial Categories and Prototype Effects in Animals

Masako Jitsumori

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition

Second edition

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392661
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Artificial Categories and Prototype Effects in Animals

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



This chapter reviews studies documenting that nonhuman animals, such as pigeons and monkeys, are capable of learning artificial categories created based on assumptions concerning the structure of natural categories. Competencies of categorization may have evolved to cope with continuities and discontinuities existing in the external world. If so, the cognitive systems of diverse animal species, including humans, should be tied to and constrained by the basic structure of the real world that they have experienced during their evolution. Objects do not occur randomly in the world but are well organized in terms of family resemblances. Family resemblance is information at the category level. For example, AB and CD in the AB-BC-CD category cannot be bound together without BC. However, for organisms to learn a category, it is essential to have not only the family resemblance of the category as a whole, but also information at the exemplar and feature levels. Prototype effects are understood as part of the general processes through which structures of categories are learned.

Keywords: artificial categories; categorization; family resemblance; natural categories; prototype effect

Article.  11637 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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