Uncertainty in Category-Based Induction: When Do People Integrate Across Categories?

Gregory L. Murphy, Brian H. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two experiments investigated how people perform category-based induction for items that have uncertain categorization. Whereas normative considerations suggest that people should consider multiple relevant categories, much past research has argued that people focus on only the most likely category. A new method is introduced in which responses on individual trials can be classified as using single or multiple categories, an improvement on past methods that relied on null effects as evidence for single-category use. Experiment 1 found that people did use multiple categories when the most likely category gave an ambiguous induction but that few people did so when it gave an unambiguous induction. Experiment 2 suggested that the reluctance to use multiple categories arose from a cognitive shortcut, in which only one source of information is consulted. The experiments revealed significant individual differences, suggesting that use of multiple categories is one of a number of strategies that can be used rather than being the basis for most category-based induction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-276
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • categorization
  • category-based induction
  • concepts
  • reasoning
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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