Concepts do more than categorize

Karen O. Solomon*, Douglas L. Medin, Elizabeth Lynch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Concepts underlie all higher-level cognitive processes. Until recently, the study of concepts has largely been the study of categorization. But categorization is only one conceptual function among several. We argue that concepts cannot be understood sufficiently through the study of categorization, or any other function, in isolation, for two important reasons. First, concepts serve multiple functions which interact to affect conceptual structure and processing. Second, studying a single function in isolation encourages one to see cognitive processes that are particular to each function, but discourages the discovery of processes that are common to multiple functions. For these two reasons, we suggest that concepts should instead be studied in the context of a system of interrelated functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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