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n. The mental representation of a thing or

class of things so that an individual can decide
whether a specifi c stimulus is an instance
of that object or class of objects and act on
the basis of that judgment. Concepts can be
inferred from consistencies in the actions of
an organism without verbal expression of the
concept, as when animals learn to respond to
compound reward schedules or when preverbal
infants react differently to stimuli in and
outside of abstract conceptual classes.
concept acquisition
n. The process of learning or acquiring a concept,
which can be inductive, as by discriminating
among particular instances, some of
which are examples of the concept and some
of which are not, or deductively, as by another
persons verbalization of the construct.
concept formation
n. The process of learning or acquiring a concept
from particular instances, some of which
are examples of the concept and some of
which are not.
concept formation and learning
n. In education, concept formation in which
a concept can be applied to new situations
and related to other concepts is differentiated
from simple rote learning, in which a
response is given to a single stimulus or a few
stimuli but does not become an integrated
part of the individuals general knowledge.
concept learning
n. The process of acquiring concepts in which
the individual forms a list of attributes or a
prototype or best example of a category in
which the attributes related to the category
are embodied and to which future possible
instances are compared
When you think about anythingdogs, happiness, sex, movies, pizzayou are manipulating
a basic ingredient of thought called concepts. Concepts are categories of objects,
events, or ideas with common properties. Some concepts, such as round and red,
are visual and concrete. Concepts such as truth and justice are more abstract and
harder to define. To have a concept is to recognize the properties, or features, that
tend to be shared by members of a category. For example, the concept of bird includes
such properties as having feathers, laying eggs, and being able to fly. The concept of

scissors includes such properties as having two blades, a connecting hinge, and a pair
of finger holes. Concepts allow you to relate each object or event you encounter to a
category that you already know. Using concepts, you can say, No, that is not a dog,
or Yes, that is a car. Concepts also make it possible for you to think logically. If you
have the concepts whale and bird, you can decide whether a whale is a bird without
having either creature in the room with you.
Types of Concepts Some conceptscalled formal conceptsclearly define
objects or events by a set of rules and properties, so that every member of the concept
has all of the concepts defining properties and nonmembers do not. For instance, the
concept square can be defined as a shape with four equal sides and four right-angle
corners. Any object that does not have all of these features is simply not a square.
Formal concepts are often used to study concept learning in the laboratory, because the
members of these concepts can be neatly defined (Trabasso & Bower, 1968).
In contrast, try to define the concepts home or game. You might say
that home is the place where you live, and that a game is a competition
between players. However, some people define home as the place they were
born, and solitaire is a card game even though it involves only one player. These are
just two examples of natural concepts. Unlike formal concepts, natural concepts dont
have a fixed set of defining features. Instead, natural concepts have a set of typical or
characteristic features, and members dont need to have all of them. For example, the
ability to fly is a characteristic feature of the natural concept bird, but an ostrich is
still a bird even though it cant fly. It is a bird because it has enough other characteristic
features of bird (such as feathers and wings). Having just one bird property is not enough,
though. A snake lays eggs and a bat can fly, but neither animal is a bird.
It is usually a combination of properties that defines a concept. In most situations outside
the laboratory, people are thinking about natural rather than formal concepts.
These natural concepts include object categories, such as bird or house. They also
include abstract idea categories, such as honesty or justice, and goal-related categories,
such as things to pack for my vacation (Barsalou, 1993).
The boundaries of a natural concept are fuzzy, so some members are better examples
of it than others. A robin, a chicken, an ostrich, and a penguin are all birds. But the robin
is a better example of the bird concept than the others, because it is closer to what most
people have learned to think of as a typical bird. A member of a natural concept that
all or most of its characteristic features is called a prototype. The robin is a prototypical
bird. The more prototypical of a concept something is, the more quickly you can
decide whether it is an example of the concept. This is the reason people can answer just
a little more quickly when asked Is a robin a bird? than when asked Is a penguin a bird?