Ideal is typical

Russell C. Burnett*, Douglas L. Medin, Norbert O. Ross, Sergey V. Blok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


A well-established finding in research on concepts and categories is that some members are rated as better or more typical examples than others. It is generally thought that typicality reflects centrality, that is, that typical examples are those that are similar to many other members of the category. This interpretation of typicality is based on studies in which participants had little knowledge about the relevant categories. In the present study, experienced fishermen were asked to give goodness-of-example ratings to familiar freshwater fish. These fishermen were of two cultural groups with somewhat different goals and ideals. Typicality was well predicted by fishes' desirability and poorly predicted by their centrality. Further, the two cultural groups differed in their typicality ratings in ways that corresponded to their different goals and ideals. For knowledgeable reasoners typicality in natural taxonomic categories appears based on ideals rather than on centrality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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