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Author Topic: What is a Basic-Level Category?  (Read 2286 times)

Offline coberst

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What is a Basic-Level Category?
« on: 02/05/2009 21:00:39 »
What is a Basic-Level Category?

Consider the category hierarchies: {furniture--chair—rocker} and {vehicle--car—sedan}. The middle categories--chair and car--have been discovered to be “basic”—they have a cognitive priority. “Basic-level categories are distinguished from subordinate categories by aspects of our bodies, brains, and minds: mental images, gestalt perception, motor programs, and knowledge structure.”

The basic level is characterized by at least four conditions: 1) It is the highest level at which a single mental image can represent the entire category (you can’t get a mental image of vehicle or furniture). 2) It is the highest level at which category members have a similarly perceived overall shape. 3) It is the highest level at which a person uses similar motor actions for interacting with category members. 4) It is the level at which most of our knowledge is organized.

The division between basic and non-basic level is body-based. It is based upon gestalt (overall part-whole structure) perception, motor programs, and mental images. The basic-level is that level at which people more optimally interact with their environment.

The basic-level does not merely apply to objects. “There are basic-level actions, actions for which we have conventional mental images and motor programs, like swimming, walking, and grasping. We also have basic-level concepts, like families, clubs, and baseball teams, as well as basic-level social actions, like arguing. And there are basic-level emotions, like happiness, anger, and sadness.”

“Our categories arise from the fact that we are neural beings, from the nature of our bodily capacities, from our experience interacting in the world, and from our evolved capacity for basic-level categorization—a level at which we optimally interact with the world. Evolution has not required us to be as accurate above and below the basic level as at the basic level, and so we are not.”

We have a gut feeling about some things because our sense of correctness comes from our bodies. When Newton provided us with his theory of physics we could “feel” the correctness of much of it because he was using such concepts as acceleration, momentum, distance and velocity all of which we knew because we could intuit them, we could “feel in our gut” these concepts. Such was not the case when the physicist attacked the problem of quantum physics. Who has a gut feeling for the inner workings of the atom?

Our “gut feeling” constantly informs us as to the ‘correctness’ of some phenomenon. This gut feeling is an attitude; it is one of many types of attitudes. What can we say about this gut feeling?

Philosophy in The Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson says a great deal about this gut feeling. Conceptual metaphor theory, the underlying theory of cognitive science contained in this book, explains how our knowledge is ‘grounded’ in a manner in which we optimally interact with the world.

Our basic-level categories are created unconsciously based upon our bodily interaction with our world.


 

Offline graham.d

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What is a Basic-Level Category?
« Reply #1 on: 02/05/2009 21:46:35 »
I think this relates to your other post. Gut feelings are based on what our brain makes of things that it perceives based on millions of years of evolutionary development. The qualities that it has in discerning key issues are based on evolutionary advantages from working better for a particular situation. When, as humans, we start to be presented with concepts which are outside of any previous human experience we have to doubt whether gut feelings are of much value. We only optimally interact with a world which we are familiar with on an everyday level and have difficulty with the physics of the world that we don't directly perceive. In fact even the models and extrapolations we make in trying to fit the facts to our limited perception ability are often poor and sometimes completely wrong.

I think that we can get around this, and have done so to some extent, by seeing the world via mathematics. It is not wholly satisfying to those of us with strong spacio-visual minds, but it has to do because it is all we have until we get better brains. In QM the problem is even addressed by relating the maths to spacio-visual abstractions of multi-dimensional spaces. It helps some people apparently :-)

In any case I think that gut feelings, except those of a brain trained in understanding the maths and the underlying concepts, are not usually helpful in modern physics.
 

Offline coberst

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What is a Basic-Level Category?
« Reply #2 on: 03/05/2009 21:34:51 »

In any case I think that gut feelings, except those of a brain trained in understanding the maths and the underlying concepts, are not usually helpful in modern physics.

Math is the science of pattern.  Human relationships have little pattern or the pattern is too complicated to discern.  Thus math is of little or no help in the most important aspect of our lives.  It is in morality, i.e. human relationships that will be the self destruction of the human species.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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What is a Basic-Level Category?
« Reply #3 on: 04/05/2009 17:54:46 »
  Human relationships have little pattern or the pattern is too complicated to discern. 
And yet you speak highly of Maslow's Heirarchy, while failing to see how this impacts the development of human relationships.

Little pattern? - absolutely not. Behavioural studies show all kinds of patterns. Complicated, yes, but absolutely discernible, describable and measureable.
 

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What is a Basic-Level Category?
« Reply #3 on: 04/05/2009 17:54:46 »

 

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