Models of concepts

Benjamin Cohen, Gregory Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Over the last 10 years research on concepts has produced an important new theory known as prototype theory. Despite its empirical successes, prototype theory has been challenged by various arguments purporting to show its descriptive inadequacy for a variety of phenomena, including complex concepts and quantification. These arguments are primarily based on a settheoretic model of concepts. We consider the advantages and disadvantages of the set-theoretic approach and argue that if we instead model concepts as knowledge representations of a certain kind, it is possible not only to answer prototype theory's critics, but to address more fundamental issues in the theory of concepts. We also consider the implications of these different approaches for psychology, linguistics, and artificial intelligence (AI). To substantiate our claims, a knowledge representation model of prototype theory is outlined, based on work in schema theory and AI knowledge representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-58
Number of pages32
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1984


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Linguistics and Language

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