Outside Resources

Debate: The debate about Pluto and the definition of planet is an interesting one, as it illustrates the difficulty of arriving at definitions even in science. The Planetary Science Institute’s website has a series of press releases about the Pluto debate, including reactions from astronomers, while it happened.


Image Search: It can be interesting to get a pictorial summary of how much diversity there is among category members. If you do an image search for familiar categories such as houses, dogs, weddings, telephones, fruit, or whatever, you can get a visual display on a single page of the category structure. Of course, the results are probably biased, as people do not just randomly upload pictures of dogs or fruit, but it nonetheless will likely reveal the typicality structure, as most of the pictures will be of typical exemplars, and the atypical ones will stand out. (This activity will also demonstrate the phenomenon of ambiguity in language, as a search for “house” will yield some pictures of the TV character House, M.D. However, that is a lesson for a different module.)


Self-test: If you would like to run your own category-learning experiment, you can do so by following the link below. It works either in-browser or by download. When downloaded, users can put in their own stimuli to categorize.


Software: Self-test Categorization Applet – This software allows you to conduct your own categorization experiment.


Web: A Compendium of Category and Concept Activities and Worksheets – This website contains all types of printable worksheets and activities on how to categorize concepts. It includes word searches, picture sorts, and more.

Categories – word lists, activities, worksheets, and more

Web: An interesting article at Space.com argues (I believe correctly) that the term planet will not and should not be defined.


Web: Most familiar categories have simple labels such as planet or dog. However, more complex categories can be made up for a particular purpose. Barsalou (1983) studied categories such as things to carry out of a burning house or ways to avoid being killed by the Mob. Interestingly, someone has published a book consisting of people’s photographs of things they would carry out of a burning house, and there is also a website showing such collections. Try to analyze what is common to the category members. What is the category’s prototype?



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Outside Resources by Philip Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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