Feature-based versus category-based induction with uncertain categories

Oren Griffiths, Brett K. Hayes, Ben R. Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has suggested that when feature inferences have to be made about an instance whose category membership is uncertain, feature-based inductive reasoning is used to the exclusion of category-based induction. These results contrast with the observation that people can and do use category-based induction when category membership is known. The present experiments examined the conditions that drive feature-based and category-based strategies in induction under category uncertainty. Specifically, 2 experiments investigated whether reliance on feature-based inductive strategies is a product of the lack of coherence in the categories used in previous research or is due to the use of a decision-only induction procedure. Experiment 1 found that feature-based reasoning remained the preferred strategy even when categories with relatively high internal coherence were used. Experiment 2 found a shift toward category-based reasoning when participants were trained to classify category members prior to feature induction. Together, these results suggest that an appropriate conceptual representation must be formed through experience with a category before it is likely to be used as a basis for feature induction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-595
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • induction
  • category learning
  • concept formation
  • category coherence
  • Category coherence
  • Category learning
  • Induction
  • Concept formation


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