Concepts and Categories (830:637)

Professor Jacob Feldman
Spring, 2016

Goals of the course.  The formation, representation, and use of concepts and categories lie at the foundations of thought processes. These topics have been extensively studied by philosophers and psychologists, albeit without agreement on many fundamental issues. More recently, many basic questions about induction, learning, and representation have also been investigated by computer scientists and statisticians, in many cases touching on traditional issues from a novel and enlightening perspective. This course will investigate concepts and categories, primarily focusing on the psychological literature, and occasionally bringing philosophical and mathematical perspectives to bear as well. Topics will include mechanisms of induction and generalization, compositionality, conceptual coherence, conceptual complexity, similarity, and feature selection.

Time and place: Psychology (Busch) 333, Tuesdays, 2:30 - 5:00pm.

Graded assignments. Graded assignments will consist of two paper and one in-class presentation. Details will be discussed in class. 

Weekly assignment. Each week, each student will be expected to send me a single question or comment (at least a sentence, at most a long paragraph) on each of that week’s readings by e-mail (jacob@ruccs.rutgers.edu). These do not have to be eloquent pronouncements or summaries. Rather, they should be casual but thoughtful remarks or queries concerning something that struck you or puzzled you.

Tentative schedule of readings

Week1 Introduction: induction and generalization
Week 2 Classical concept learning  Bruner, Goodnow & Austin (1956); Shepard, Hovland & Jenkins (1961)
Week 3 Prototype models  Rosch et al. (1976); Rosch (1978)
Week 4 Exemplar models  Nosofsky (1988); Kruschke (1992)
Week 5 Decision-bound models; Mixture models  Maddox & Ashby (1993); Rosseel (2002)
Week 6 Theory theory  Murphy & Medin (1985); Rehder (2003)
Week 7 Simplicity-based models  Feldman (2000); Sober (2002)
Week 8 Hybrid models  Nosofsky, Palmeri & McKinley (1994)Hahn & Chater (1996)
Week 9 Compositionality  Smith, Osherson, Rips & Keane (1988); Fodor & Lepore (1996)
Week 10 Rational models  Anderson (1991); Tenenbaum & Griffiths (2001)
Week 11 Features  Goldstone (1994); Schyns, Goldstone & Thibaut (1998)
Week 12 Neuroscience of concepts  Ashby & Ell (2001); Quiroga (2012)
Week 13 Concepts and culture  Davidoff, Davies & Roberson (1999)Ojalehto & Medin (2015)