One of the main functions of categories is to allow inferences about new objects. However, most objects are cross-classified, and it is not known whether and how people combine information from these different categories in making inferences. In six experiments, food categories, which are strongly crossclassified (e.g., a bagel is both a bread and a breakfast food), were studied. For each food, the subjects were told fictitious facts (e.g., 75% of breads are subject to spoilage from Aspergillus molds) about two of the categories to which it belonged and then were asked to make an inference about the food (e.g., how likely is a bagel to be subject to spoilage from Aspergillus molds?). We found no more use of multiple categories in these cases of cross-classification than in ambiguous classification, in which it is uncertain to which category an item belongs. However, some procedural manipulations did markedly increase the use of both categories in inferences, primarily those that focused the subjects' attention on the critical feature in both categories.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)