Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2009

Journal or Book Title

Memory & Cognition

Volume

37

Abstract

A critical function of categories is their use in property inference (Heit, 2000). However, one challenge to using categories in inference is that most entities in the world belong to multiple categories (e.g., Fido could be a dog, a pet, a mammal, or a security system). Building on Patalano, Chin-Parker, and Ross (2006), we tested the hypothesis that category coherence (the extent to which category features go together in light of prior knowledge) influences the selection of categories for use in property inference about cross-classified entities. In two experiments, we directly contrasted coherent and incoherent categories, both of which included cross-classified entities as members, and we found that the coherent categories were used more readily as the source of both property transfer and property extension. We conclude that category coherence, which has been found to be a potent influence on strength of inference for singly classified entities (Rehder & Hastie, 2004), is also central to category use in reasoning about novel cross-classified ones.

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