Natural Categories  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Natural Categories" (1973) is an essay by Eleanor Rosch.

The term prototype has been defined in Eleanor Rosch's study and was first defined as a stimulus, which takes a salient position in the formation of a category as it is the first stimulus to be associated with that category. Later, she redefined it as the most central member of a category.


The hypothesis of the study was that the domains of color and form are structured into nonarbitrary, semantic categories which develop around perceptually salient “natural prototypes.” Categories which reflected such an organization (where the presumed natural prototypes were central tendencies of the categories) and categories which violated the organization (natural prototypes peripheral) were taught to a total of 162 members of a Stone Age culture which did not initially have hue or geometric-form concepts. In both domains, the presumed “natural” categories were consistently easier to learn than the “distorted” categories, Even when not central, natural prototype stimuli tended to be more rapidly learned and more often chosen as the most typical example of the category than were other stimuli. Implications for general differences between natural categories and the artificial categories of concept formation research were discussed.

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