Cognitive load privileges memory-based over data-driven processing, not group-level over person-level processing

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In the current paper, we argue that categorization and individuation, as traditionally discussed and as experimentally operationalized, are defined in terms of two confounded underlying dimensions: a person/group dimension and a memory-based/data-driven dimension. In a series of three experiments, we unconfound these dimensions and impose a cognitive load. Across the three experiments, two with laboratory-created targets and one with participants’ friends as the target, we demonstrate that cognitive load privileges memory-based over data-driven processing, not group- over person-level processing. We discuss the results in terms of their implications for conceptualizations of the categorization/individuation distinction, for the equivalence of person and group processes, for the ultimate ‘purpose’ and meaningfulness of group-based perception and, fundamentally, for the process of categorization, broadly defined.

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