Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind


Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind Why Care About Categories Categorization is basic to experience. We categorize things ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind

Women, Fire, and Dangerous ThingsWhat
Categories Reveal About the Mind
Why Care About Categories
  • Categorization is basic to experience. We
    categorize things automatically in order to make
    sense of the world.
  • The majority of our words and concepts represent
  • These terms, representing categories, are how
    users navigate websites.

What the PB Book Lacks....
  • A cohesive theory of how people form categories.
  • Definitive principles on what makes a good
    category, regardless of context.
  • What if we could apply the key findings from
    experiments throughout the history of category
    theory in order to predict how users will label
    the content in a website, saving time and money
    in usability research?

George Lakoff
  • Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at the
    University of California at Berkeley since 1972.
  • Most famous for his ideas about the centrality
    of metaphor to human thinking, political behavior
    and society.
  • Began his career as a student of Noam Chomsky at

"Our brains take their input from the rest of our
bodies. What our bodies are like and how they
function in the world thus structures the very
concepts we can use to think. We cannot think
just anything - only what our embodied brains
  • Lakoff's Germanic thoroughness comes as no
    unmixed blessing the lay reader, at least, may
    find interest in the author's ideas drowning in a
    sea of repetition and restatement... Raymond
    W. Gibbs, Jr.
  • Lakoffs book is a tremendous piece of
    scholarship and an intellectual achievement of
    the first order. Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr.
  • The latest offering from one of the foremost
    linguists of our time should not be missing from
    any library that claims to have holdings in the
    humanities, cognitive science, or education.
    Terence M. Odlin
  • Stop! The! World! For! A! Moment! - Alexander

Classical Categories
  • Defined by shared properties.
  • Have clear boundaries.
  • Conceptualized as abstract containers with things
    either inside or outside.
  • Reflect categories in nature.
  • Set theory reality characterized by abstract
    entities, properties of entities, and sets of
    entities. Categories formed only through union,
    intersection, and complementation of sets (Venn

Limitations of Classical Categories
  • According to classical category theory
  • No member of a category has any special status.
  • All levels of a hierarchy are important and
  • Wittgenstein central and non-central members
  • Austin some categories don't show family
  • Berlin a single level of classification (the
    genus) is psychologically basic because human
    capacities for perception are utilized in the
    same way.

Basic-Level Categories
  • Basic in Four Respects
  • Perception overall perceived shape a single
    mental image Gestalt.
  • Function interaction with the world.
  • Communication Shortest, most commonly used
    terms first words learned.
  • Knowledge Organization Most attributes of
    category members are stored at this level.
  • Categories that are cognitively basic are at the
    middle of the general-to-specific hierarchy.

RoschPrototype Theory
  • Classical theory also holds that
  • If categories are defined only by properties that
    all members have, then no member should be a
    better example of the category than another.
  • But,
  • Eleanor Rosch found that categories, in general,
    have best examples, called prototypes, and that
    human capacities such as imagination play a
    role in categorization.

Prototype Effects
  • Assymmetries within a category
  • Prototypes, stereotypes, or otherwise "typical"
    examples of things
  • Demonstrated empirically (people are slower and
    less certain when categorizing "atypical" items
    (e.g., Is a penguin a bird? Is a lamp a piece of
  • Imply not that some members are less members,
    but that category has additional internal
    structure, central to meaning and inexplicable by
    a (fuzzy) set theoretic model.

Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM)
  • Thesis We organize our knowledge with complex
    structured wholes (gestalts) called Idealized
    Cognitive Models.
  • Category structures and prototype effects are
    by-products from attempts to fit these ungraded
    ICM's to the world.
  • Bachelors?
  • men in long-term unmarried couplings?
  • boy abandoned in jungle to mature in isolation?
  • the Pope?
  • Combine to form clusters more psychologically
    basic than individual models

Structuring ICMs
  • ICMs basic schemas explain category structures
  • radial (central member extension principles)
  • metaphoric (mapping from experiential to abstract
  • metonymic (part stands for whole)

birth mother
adoptive mother
surrogate mother
foster mother
  • Kinesthetic Image Schemas are concepts that
    metaphorically structure complex concepts (ICMs)?

More is up, less is down
  • In addition to structuring complex ICMs, image
    schemas are directly understood structures of
    their own
  • Container, part-whole, link, interior-exterior,
    boundary, center-periphery, source-path-goal,
    up-down, front-back, linear-order
  • Experiential basis
  • Structure our experience preconceptually
  • Metaphors map schemas to abstract domain,
    preserving logic
  • Set theory interior-exterior, boundary,
    container basic logic metaphors

Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things?
  • On those remote pages it is written that animals
    are divided into (a) those that belong to the
    Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are
    trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f)
    fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are
    included in this classification, (i) those that
    tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable
    ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's
    hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just
    broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble
    flies from a distance.

Case Study Dyirbal Classification
  • Bayi men, kangaroos, possums,bats, most snakes,
    most fishes, some birds, most insects, the moon,
    storms, rainbows, boomerangs, some spears,etc.
  • Balan women, bandicoots, dogs, platypus, some
    snakes, some fishes, most birds, some fireflies,
    scorpions, crickets, the hairy mary grub,anything
    connected with water or fire, sun and stars,
    shields, some spears, some trees, etc.
  • Balam all edible fruit and the plants that bear
    them, tubers, ferns, honey, cigarettes, wine,
  • Bala parts of the body, meat, bees, wind,
    yamsticks, some spears, most trees, grass, mud,
    stones, noises and language, etc.

Balam nonflesh foods
Bayi (human) males animals
Bala everything else
Balan (human) females water fire fighting
Rethinking Category Theory (and Linguistics,
Philosophy, AI, IA ...)
  • Categorization in language is more often radial
    and metaphorical than hierarchical, and
  • Regardless of category type, general principles
  • centrality
  • chaining
  • experiential domains
  • idealized models
  • specific knowledge
  • the other
  • no common properties
  • motivation

PB Book on Organization Labeling
  • Organization schemes are often ambiguous, and
    should include topical access to content.
    Polysemy can make topical categorization
  • Hierarchies form the basis for organization.
    Balances must be struck between
  • exclusivity and inclusivity
  • breadth and depth
  • When designing a labeling system, consistency is
    stressed, and various sources, including social
    tagging, are suggested for ideas.

PB Book on George Lakoff
  • Make use of already-persistent image schemas and
    metaphors to structure navigation of websites
    (link, source-path-goal, up-down,
    center-periphery, part-whole)?
  • Construct basic-level categories (think
  • Cleaner, more orderly, clean borders among
    categories may be drawn by choosing prototypical
    elements to represent categories
  • Design navigation aids to move users to
    basic-level categories as soon as possible.

(No Transcript)
Example University of Michigan Library
Jorge Luis Borges, Information Architect
  • If more than one classification scheme exists for
    a given set, how do we choose one over the other?
    How do we evaluate the internal coherence of a
    given classification scheme?
  • Classification schemes can't be evaluated
    abstractly, a priori. As miscellaneous categories
    do exist in our minds, even if their use in a
    navigation system may be problematic, choice and
    coherence need to be assessed in respect to an
    empirical paradigm context, goals, users, the
    cultural climate from which the classification
  • Instead of top-down and bottom-up design models,
    try an up-and-down model where classification
    process starts in the middle, from the
    basic-level categories, grouping them in
    super-categories and splitting them in
    subordinate, more specific classes.

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