Is there an exemplar theory of concepts?

Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is common to describe two main theories of concepts: prototype theories, which rely on some form of summary description of a category, and exemplar theories, which claim that concepts are represented as remembered category instances. This article reviews a number of important phenomena in the psychology of concepts, arguing that they have no proposed exemplar explanation. In some of these cases, it is difficult to see how an exemplar theory would be adequate. The article concludes that exemplars are certainly important in some categorization judgments and in category-learning experiments, but that there is no exemplar theory of human concepts in a broad sense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1042
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Categories
  • Categorization
  • Concepts
  • Induction
  • Semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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