Sixty undergraduate students made category membership decisions for each of 132 candidate exemplar-category name pairs (e.g., chess – Sports) in each of two separate sessions. They were frequently inconsistent from one session to the next, both for nominal categories such as Sports and Fish, and ad hoc categories such as Things You Rescue from a Burning House. A mixture model analysis revealed that several of these inconsistencies could be attributed to criterial vagueness: participants adopting different criteria for membership in the two sessions. This finding indicates that categorization is a probabilistic process, whereby the conditions for applying a category label are not invariant. Individuals have various functional meanings of nominal categories at their disposal and entertain competing goals for ad hoc categories.

categorization, vagueness, individual differences, semantic memory, ad hoc categories,
Open Mind
Department of Psychology

Verheyen, S, White, A, & Égré, P. (2019). Revealing criterial vagueness in inconsistencies. Open Mind, 3, 41–51. doi:10.1162/opmi_a_00025