Main Contributing Faculty:

James Anderson
Steven Sloman
David Sobel
Mike Tarr

Research on categorization at Brown emphasizes the experimental study of the representations and processes that govern how people classify objects or concepts. These issues are studied from the perspectives of computational modeling, cognitive psychology, and development.

Anderson's research examines how neural networks can serve as models of human concept formation, as well as how networks can represent and perform manipulations on numbers.

Sloman examines whether people have fixed representations of categories, or whether categories are determined by categorization tasks. Further, he examines whether there are "core" or central properties of objects, and if so, why people use them in their categorization. This research emphasizes the role that causality plays in categorization.

Sobel investigates how children develop concepts and categories. In particular, he examines whether young children are sensitive to causal properties of objects in order to make judgments about category membership. In addition, he examines what young children know about mental state categories, including belief, desire, and pretending.

Tarr's lab group investigates how observers recognize instances and features of a class. Work in his lab has challenged the claim that face perception involves specialized brain regions. His lab investigates whether human observers can learn to process novel stimuli ("Greebles"), and whether similar brain regions are active during such processing.

Relevant coursework includes introductory courses in cognition (CG42), perception (CG44), cognitive development (CG63), and semantics (CG8). Advanced students should take the more advanced course in higher level cognition (CG152), the laboratory in cognition (CG153) and the higher level course on categorization (CG187). In addition, topics relevant to concepts and categories are covered in classes on Semantics (CG111 and CG112), Language processing (CG123), Perception (CG11), and Cognitive Development (CG118, CG162). In addition, there are special seminars and workshops; most recently on causal reasoning and another on intentionality.


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