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Metamorphosis: essence, appearance, and behavior in the categorization of natural kinds

By James A. Hampton, Zachary Estes and Sabrina Simmons


The transformation paradigm (Rips, 1989) was used to contrast causal homeostasis and strict essentialist beliefs about biological kinds. Participants read scenarios describing animals that changed their appearance and behavior through either accidental mutation or developmental maturation and then rated the animals on the basis of similarity, typicality, and category membership both before and after the change. Experiment I in the present study replicated the dissociation of typicality and categorization reported by Rips (1989) but also revealed systematic individual differences in categorization. With typicality and membership ratings collected between participants, however, Experiment 2 found no evidence for the dissociation and few essentialist responders. In Experiment 3, excluding information about offspring led most participants to categorize on the basis of appearance and behavior alone. However, with offspring information included and with questioning focused on the change of kind, essentialist categorization was still surprisingly rare. We conclude that strict essentialist categorization in the transformation task is relatively rare and highly task dependent, and that categorization is more commonly based on causal homeostasis

Topics: BF
Publisher: Psychonomic Society, Inc.
Year: 2007
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