Typicality and reasoning fallacies

Eldar B. Shafffi, Edward E. Smith, Daniel N. Osherson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The work of Tversky and Kahneman on intuitive probability judgment leads to the following prediction: The judged probability that an instance belongs to a category is an increasing function of the typicality of the instance in the category. To test this prediction, subjects in Experiment 1 read a description of a person (e.g., "Linda is 31, bright, ... outspoken") followed by a category. Some subjects rated how typical the person was of the category, while others rated the probability that the person belonged to that category. For categories like bank teller and feminist bank teller: (1) subjects rated the person as more typical of the conjunctive category (a conjunction effect); (2) subjects rated it more probable that the person belonged to the conjunctive category (a conjunction fallacy); and (3) the magnitudes of the conjunction effect and fallacy were highly correlated. Experiment 2 documents an inclusion fallacy, wherein subjects judge, for example, "All bank tellers are conservative" to be more probable than "All feminist bank tellers are conservative." In Experiment 3, results parallel to those of Experiment 1 were obtained with respect to the inclusion fallacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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