Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 245–264 | Cite as

Similarity and Induction



We advance a theory of inductive reasoning based on similarity, and test it on arguments involving mammal categories. To measure similarity, we quantified the overlap of neural activation in left Brodmann area 19 and the left ventral temporal cortex in response to pictures of different categories; the choice of of these regions is motivated by previous literature. The theory was tested against probability judgments for 40 arguments generated from 9 mammal categories and a common predicate. The results are interpreted in the context of Hume’s thesis relating similarity to inductive inference.



We thank Sergey Blok, James Haxby, Douglas Medin, and Lawrence Parsons for discussion and assistance in various stages of this work.


  1. Aguilar, C.M., and D.L. Medin. 1999. Asymmetries of comparison. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 6: 328–337.Google Scholar
  2. Blok, S., D. Medin, and D. Osherson. 2007. From similarity to chance. In Inductive reasoning: experimental, developmental, and computational approaches, eds. Evan Heit and Aidan Feeney. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bonini, N., K. Tentori, and D. Osherson. 2004. A different conjunction fallacy. Mind and Language 19(2): 199–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Capitani, E., M. Laiacona, B. Mahon, and A. Caramazza. 2003. What are the facts of semantic category-specific deficits? A critical review of the evidence. Cognitive Neuropsychology 20: 213–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caramazza, A. 2000. The organization of conceptual knowledge in the brain. In The new cognitive neurosciences, ed. M.S. Gazzaniga, 1037–1046. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  6. Chao, L.L., J.V. Haxby, and A. Martin. 1999. Attribute-based neural substrates in temporal cortex for perceiving and knowing about objects. Nature Neuroscience 2: 913–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen, L.J. 1980. Some historical remarks on the Baconian conception of probability. Journal of the History of Ideas 41(2): 219–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cox, R.W. 1996. AFNI: Software for analysis and visualization of functional magnetic resonance neuroimages. Computers and Biomedical Research 29: 162–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Freedman, D.J., M. Riesenhuber, T. Poggio, and E.K. Miller. 2001. Categorical representation of visual stimuli in the primate prefrontal cortex. Science 291: 312–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gainotti, G. 2000. What the locus of brain lesion tells us about the nature of the cognitive defect underlying category-specific disorders: A review. Cortex 36: 539–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gerlach, C. 2007. A review of functional imaging studies on category specificity. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 19(2): 296–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerlach, C., I. Law, and O.B. Paulson. 2002. When action turns into words. Activation of motor-based knowledge during categorization of manipulable objects. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 14(8): 1230–1239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hume, David. 2006 An enquiry concerning human understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Joseph, J.E. 2001. Functional neuroimaging studies of category specificity in object recognition: A critical review and meta-analysis. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience 1: 119–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kounios, J., P. Koenig, G. Glosser, C. DeVita, K. Dennis, P. Moore, and M. Grossman. 2003. Category-specific medial temporal lobe activation and the consolidation of semantic memory: evidence from fMRI. Cognitive Brain Research 17: 484–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Locke, John. 1689. An essay concerning human understanding. London: William Tegg.Google Scholar
  17. Martin, A. 2001. Functional neuroimaging of semantic memory. In Handbook of functional neuroimaging of cognition, eds. R. Cabeza and A. Kingstone, 153–186. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  18. Martin, A. 2007. The representation of object concepts in the brain. Annual Review of Psychology 58: 25–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Martin, A., C.L. Wiggs, L.G. Ungerleider, and J.V. Haxby. 1996. Neural correlates of category specific behavior. Nature 379: 649–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Neapolitan, R. 1990. Probabilistic reasoning in expert systems: Theory and algorithms. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Perani, D., T. Schnur, T. Tettamanti, M. Gorno-Tempini, S.F. Cappa, and F. Fazio. 1999. Word and print matching: A PET study of semantic category effects. Neuropsychologia 37: 293–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Saffran, E.M. and M.F. Schwartz. 1994. Of cabbages and things: Semantic memory from a neuropsychological perspective—a tutorial review. In Attention and performance, eds. C. Umilta and M. Moscovitch, vol XV, 507–536. Hove and London: Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
  23. Tentori, K., N. Bonini, and D. Osherson. 2004. The conjunction fallacy: a misunderstanding about conjunction? Cognitive Science 28: 467–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Thompson-Schill, S., I.P. Kan, and R.T. Oliver. 2006. Functional neuroimaging of semantic memory. In Handbook of functional neuroimaging of cognition, 2nd edn, 149–190. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  25. Tversky, A. 1977. Features of similarity. Psychological Review 84: 327–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Warrington, E.K., and T. Shallice. 1984. Category specific semantic impairments. Brain 107: 829–854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Weber, M., S.L. Thompson-Schill, D. Osherson, J. Haxby, and L. Parsons. 2009. Predicting judged similarity of mammals from their neural representations. Neuropsychologia 47: 859–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Webster, M.J., J. Bachevalier, and L.G. Ungerleider. 1994. Connections of inferior temporal areas TEO and TE with parietal and frontal cortex in macaque monkeys. Cerebral Cortex 4: 470–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zoccolan, D., M. Kouh, T. Poggio, and J.J. DiCarlo. 2007. Trade-off between object selectivity and tolerance in monkey inferotemporal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience 27(45): 12292–12307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations