Memory & Cognition

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 462–472 | Cite as

Natural categories: Well defined or fuzzy sets?

  • Michael E. McCloskey
  • Sam Glucksberg


Thirty college students made category membership decisions for each of 540 candidate exemplar-category name pairs (e.g.,apple-fruit) in each of two separate sessions. For highly typical category members (e.g., chair for thefurniture category), and for items unrelated to a category (e.g.,cucumber-furniture), subjects agreed with each other and were consistent in their decisions. However, for intermediate-typicality items (e.g.,bookends-furniture), subjects disagreed with each other and were frequently inconsistent from one session to the next. These data suggest that natural categories are fuzzy sets, with no clear boundaries separating category members from nonmembers.


Functional Category Semantic Memory Typicality Level Category Membership Natural Category 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael E. McCloskey
    • 1
  • Sam Glucksberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrinceton

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