When similarity and causality compete in category-based property generalization

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Five experiments were performed to investigate the category-based generalization of nonblank properties, properties that were novel but that were attributed to existing category features with causal explanations. Experiments 1-3 tested how such explanations interact with the well-known effects of similarity on such generalizations. The results showed that when the causal explanations were used, standard effects of typicality (Experiment 1), diversity (Experiment 2), or similarity itself (Experiment 3) were almost completely eliminated. Experiments 4 and 5 demonstrated that category-based generalizations exhibit some of the standard properties of causal reasoning; for example, an effect (i.e., a novel category property) is judged to be more prevalent when its cause (i.e., an existing category feature) is also prevalent. These findings suggest that category-based property generalization is often an instance of causal inference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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