Components of Objects and Events

Lance J. Rips, Paul A. Estin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


People's notions of mental events - reasoning, planning, and so on - appear to possess a structure different from their notions of physical objects. The parts of a mental activity tend to be members of the same categories as their whole. For example, a part of planning, such as evaluating competing plans, is a type of thinking, as is planning itself. Parts of physical objects, however, rarely belong to the same categories as their whole. The core of an apple is not a kind of fruit, and the steering wheel of a car is not a kind of vehicle. Experiment 1 documents this difference by eliciting judgments about the part and kind relations for groups of physical objects, mental events, and scripts. Experiment 2 shows that this difference between domains is correlated with the degree to which the parts of these entities share their properties. Experiment 3 explores whether the difference is due to the boundedness of parts, their similarity, or their essentialness. The results are consistent with the theory that events are less bounded than objects; hence, there is less pressure to cross-classify the events and their parts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-330
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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