The coincidence effect in similarity and choice

Audrey S. Kaplan*, Douglas L. Medin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Medin, Goldstone, and Markman (1995) recently described a series of parallel effects in similarity and choice. They suggested that similarity and choice are related in a nontrivial way such that choice may entail a similarity judgment to an explicit or constructed ideal. In this paper, the correspondences between similarity and choice were investigated with respect to a phenomenon in similarity known as the coincidence effect. In coincidence (pronounced 'coincide-ence'), two items that match on one dimension but have a large difference on another dimension receive a higher similarity rating than do two items that have only modest differences on both dimensions. We conducted five experiments in order to examine commonalities between similarity and choice processes with respect to coincidence. Four types of tasks were given: similarity ratings, desirability ratings, forced choice similarities (which of two items is most similar to a target), and forced choice preferences (which of two items one would prefer, given a target). We found a main effect for ratings as opposed to forced choices, with ratings showing greater coincidence effects than did choices. Similarity measures tended to produce more coincidence than did preference measures. The overall pattern of results suggests the presence of dimensional weighting processes sensitive to task characteristics and operating somewhat differently for similarity and decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-576
Number of pages7
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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