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What is a natural_concept?

resonance: 35.7% from: mjweber

A concept is a class of objects. That's a pretty broad definition, of course, and that's on purpose; "bear," "checkerboard," "government," "unicorn," and "Buddhism" are all concepts in good standing, although at different levels of abstraction. The set of concepts isn't fixed; innovation generates concepts ("human_genome," "internal_combustion_engine," "knug"), as do the exigencies of life ("things_I_need_to_rescue_from_ my_house_before_it_burns_down"). Philosophers are concerned with whether concepts are mental_representations or whether they have some independent reality; psychologists (like me) tend to assume they're mental_representations that show some reliable common tendencies across people.

A natural_concept is one like the above, which you come by in the course of everyday experience. This designation is mostly useful in opposition to the artificial concepts you might find yourself learning in a psychology experiment, like which types of dot patterns or slanted lines the experimenter has decided to group together. The latter are pretty useless to know, but it's interesting to watch how people learn them without any reference to their life experience (which might otherwise affect the outcome in unpredictable ways).


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