Prototype Theory and Categorization Term Paper by Nicky

Prototype Theory and Categorization
A look at prototype theory and its relationship to categorization.
# 149380 | 1,039 words | 5 sources | APA | 2011 | US
Published on Dec 13, 2011 in Psychology (Memory) , Psychology (General)

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This paper explores prototype theory further showing how the human mind processes information into mental categories. First, the paper gives a brief overview of this theory and presents examples. Next, in contrast to prototype theories, the paper describes so-called exemplar theory which suggests that learning proceeds from specific examples. The paper further notes that exemplar theory has also been called 'cloud' theory in that each category of exemplars is represented in memory by a cloud of remembered exemplars. The paper closes with a discussion of the difficulties in testing prototype theory against exemplar theory .

From the Paper:

"But according to prototype theory, boundaries of categories are more fuzzy and pliable by virtue of necessity (Green, 2000, p.301). It seems an "almost common-sense notion that, as an organism, what one wishes to gain from one's categories is a great deal of information about the environment while conserving finite resources as much as possible," and to be cognitively efficient, categories must be both specific enough to reflect all essential information and general enough not to overwhelm the classificatory consumer with irrelevancies" (Green, 2000, p.302). Too many categories results in a waste of needless cognitive space that is why "a category's mental representation is based on a prototypical exemplar or prototype" that does not strive to subsume all of the aspects of every conceivable example, only the most salient aspects of the categorical components (Dopkins & Gleason, 1997, p.1). Another example might be how, "the representation for the BIRD category might be based on ROBIN. To decide whether an entity is a member of category, one compares it to the category's prototype," and asks if an ostrich sufficiently resembles a robin..."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Dopkins, Stephen & Theresa Gleason. (1997). "Comparing exemplar and prototype models of categorization." Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. July 12, 2009 at
  • Green, Stuart. (2000, January 19). Prototype theory and the classification of offenses in a revised model penal code: A general approach to the special part. Buffalo Criminal Law Review. 4:301. Retrieved July 12, 2009 at
  • Mobius, Bernd. (2004). Exemplar Theory. GK: Phonetics and Phonology. University of Stuttgart. Retrieved July 12, 2009 at
  • Pierrehumbert, Janet. (2003, January 3). Exemplar theory. Probability theory in linguistics 2:LSA. Northwestern University. Retrieved July 12, 2009 at
  • Zaki, Safa, R., Robert M. Nosofsky, R.D. Stanton, A.L. Cohen. (2003, Nov). Selective attention, and stimulus generalization. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory and Cognition. 29(6):1160-73.

Cite this Term Paper:

APA Format

Prototype Theory and Categorization (2011, December 13) Retrieved June 30, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Prototype Theory and Categorization" 13 December 2011. Web. 30 June. 2022. <>