Category-based induction

Daniel N. Osherson, Ormond Wilkie, Edward E. Smith, Alejandro López, Eldar Shafir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

572 Scopus citations


An argument is categorical if its premises and conclusion are of the form All members of C have property P, where C is a natural category like FALCON or BIRD, and P remains the same across premises and conclusion. An example is Grizzly bears love onions. Therefore, all bears love onions. Such an argument is psychologically strong to the extent that belief in its premises engenders belief in its conclusion. A subclass of categorical arguments is examined, and the following hypothesis is advanced: The strength of a categorical argument increases with (a) the degree to which the premise categories are similar to the conclusion category and (b) the degree to which the premise categories are similar to members of the lowest level category that includes both the premise and the conclusion categories. A model based on this hypothesis accounts for 13 qualitative phenomena and the quantitative results of several experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-200
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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