Quality & Quantity

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 1367–1384 | Cite as

When are concepts comparable across minds?



In communication, people cannot resort to direct reference (e.g., pointing) when using diffuse concepts like democracy. Given that concepts reside in individuals’ minds, how can people share those concepts? We argue that concepts are comparable across a social group if they afford agreement for those who use it; and that agreement occurs whenever individuals receive evidence that others conceptualize a given situation similarly to them. Based on Conceptual Agreement Theory, we show how to compute an agreement probability based on the sets of properties belonging to concepts. If that probability is sufficiently high, this shows that concepts afford an adequate level of agreement, and one may say that concepts are comparable across individuals’ minds. In contrast to other approaches, our method considers that inter-individual variability in naturally occurring conceptual content exists and is a fact that must be taken into account, whereas other theories treat variability as error that should be cancelled out. Given that conceptual variability will exist, our approach may establish whether concepts are comparable across individuals’ minds more soundly than previous methods.


Conceptual Agreement Theory Conceptual variability Shared meaning Agreement 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Ingeniería y CienciasUniversidad Adolfo IbáñezViña del MarChile
  2. 2.Escuela de PsicologíaUniversidad Adolfo IbáñezSantiagoChile

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