Communication and Category Structure: The Communicative Process as a Constraint on the Semantic Representation of information

Elin K. Jacob


Categorization is the process of dividing the world of experience into groups of entities whose members share one or more characteristics in common. Recognition of similarities across entities and the subsequent aggregation of similar entities into categories lead the individual to discover order in a complex environment that would otherwise consist of a multiplicity of unique entities. Medin (1989) has observed that, in the treatment of patients, the clinical psyhcologist cannot approach each individual as unique precisely because "absolute uniqueness imposes the prohibitive cost of ignorance" (p. 1469). Experience with patients who present common symptoms permit the clinician to cumulate and ysntesize information and thereby to expand professional knowledge of a diagnostic category. By grouping patients based upon observable similarities, the clinician treating an individual patient can apply knowledge accumulated through previous encounters with other patients.

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