Relationship Between Extensions and Intensions in Categorization: A Match Made in Heaven?

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The present study investigated the relationship between category extension and intension for 11 different semantic categories. It is often tacitly assumed that there is a (strong) extension–intension link. However, a recent study by Hampton and Passanisi (2016) examining the patterns of stable individual differences in concepts across participants called this hypothesis into question. To conceptually replicate their findings, two studies were conducted. We employed a category judgment task to measure category extensions, whereas a property generation (in Study 1) and property judgment task (Study 2) were used to measure intensions. Using their method, that is, correlating extension and intension similarity matrices, we found nonsignificant correlations in both studies, supporting their conclusion that similarity between individuals for extensional judgments does not map onto similarity between individuals for intensional judgments. However, multilevel logistic regression analyses showed that the properties a person generated (Study 1) or endorsed (Study 2) better predicted her own category judgments compared to other people’s category judgments. This result provides evidence in favor of a link between extension and intension at the subject level. The conflicting findings, resulting from two different approaches, and their theoretical repercussions are discussed.

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