## The adaptive nature of human categorization (1991)

Venue: | Psychological Review |

Citations: | 211 - 2 self |

### BibTeX

@ARTICLE{Anderson91theadaptive,

author = {John R. Anderson},

title = {The adaptive nature of human categorization},

journal = {Psychological Review},

year = {1991},

volume = {98},

pages = {409--429}

}

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### OpenURL

### Abstract

A rational model of human categorization behavior is presented that assumes that categorization reflects the derivation of optimal estimates of the probability of unseen features of objects. A Bayesian analysis is performed of what optimal estimations would be if categories formed a disjoint partitioning of the object space and if features were independently displayed within a category. This Bayesian analysis is placed within an incremental categorization algorithm. The resulting rational model accounts for effects of central tendency of categories, effects of specific instances, learning of linearly nonseparable categories, effects of category labels, extraction of basic level categories, base-rate effects, probability matching in categorization, and trial-by-trial learning functions. Al-though the rational model considers just I level of categorization, it is shown how predictions can be enhanced by considering higher and lower levels. Considering prediction at the lower, individual level allows integration of this rational analysis of categorization with the earlier rational analysis of memory (Anderson & Milson, 1989). Anderson (1990) presented a rational analysis ot 6 human cog-nition. The term rational derives from similar "rational-man" analyses in economics. Rational analyses in other fields are sometimes called adaptationist analyses. Basically, they are ef-forts to explain the behavior in some domain on the assump-tion that the behavior is optimized with respect to some criteria of adaptive importance. This article begins with a general char-acterization ofhow one develops a rational theory of a particu-lar cognitive phenomenon. Then I present the basic theory of categorization developed in Anderson (1990) and review the applications from that book. Since the writing of the book, the theory has been greatly extended and applied to many new phenomena. Most of this article describes these new develop-ments and applications. A Rational Analysis Several theorists have promoted the idea that psychologists might understand human behavior by assuming it is adapted to the environment (e.g., Brunswik, 1956; Campbell, 1974; Gib-