Tracing the identity of objects

Lance J. Rips*, Sergey Blok, George Newman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


This article considers how people judge the identity of objects (e.g., how people decide that a description of an object at one time, t-sub-0, belongs to the same object as a description of it at another time, t-sub-1). The authors propose a causal continuer model for these judgments, based on an earlier theory by Nozick (1981). According to this model, the 2 descriptions belong to the same object if (a) the object at t-sub-1 is among those that are causally close enough to be genuine continuers of the original and (b) it is the closest of these close-enough contenders. A quantitative version of the model makes accurate predictions about judgments of which a pair of objects is identical to an original (Experiments 1 and 2). The model makes correct qualitative predictions about identity across radical disassembly (Experiment 1) as well as more ordinary transformations (Experiments 2 and 3).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Causality
  • Concepts
  • Exemplars
  • Identity
  • Object concepts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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