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Reading: An Exemplar Approach to Conceptual Combination


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Research Article

An Exemplar Approach to Conceptual Combination


Wouter Voorspoels ,

Department of Psychology, KU Leuven, BE
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Gert Storms,

Department of Psychology, KU Leuven, BE
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Wolf Vanpaemel

Department of Psychology, KU Leuven, BE
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Despite the success of exemplar models of representation, the general approach in the study of the representation of conceptual combinations is based on prototypes. In this study, we evaluate the exemplar view in conceptual combination, and compare it to the traditional prototype approach. For 10 complex concepts, typicality was predicted using an instantiation-based spatial exemplar model. The exemplar model's predictions were compared to the predictions of five plausible prototype models. Results clearly indicated that the exemplar model provides the best predictions of typicality for the complex concepts, and little or no unique variance in the observed typicality gradient was accounted for exclusively by the prototype model. We find that an exemplar representation of five to ten exemplars is optimal in the prediction of typicality, which is remarkably similar to earlier findings regarding simple, established concepts. Following the clear dominance of exemplar models in categorisation and concept research, the present study underlines the need of taking the exemplar approach to the next level, applying it in the more complex field of conceptual combination.
How to Cite: Voorspoels, W., Storms, G. and Vanpaemel, W., 2012. An Exemplar Approach to Conceptual Combination. Psychologica Belgica, 52(4), pp.435–458. DOI:
Published on 01 Dec 2012.
Peer Reviewed


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