Notebook, 1993-



An idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics or particulars . . . . Construct, Design Plan . . . . General notion or idea . . . .

C O N S I D E R:

General - Notion, Idea, design, plan

Construct - Mentally combining

To seize

To form

T h e   f o l l o w i n g  [From: Coons, 'Introduction to Psychology, 
Exploration and Application']:

Concept is an idea that represents a class of objects or events. They are powerful tools because they allow us to think more abstractly, free from distracting details.

Concept formation. It is the process of classifying information into meaningful categories. At its most basic, concept formation involves experience with positive and negative instances of the concept (learning range in size of "dog" and "cat" categories). Adults more often acquire concepts by learning or forming rules. For example, a triangle must be a closed shape with three sides made of straight lines. Rule learning is generally more efficient than examples, but examples remain important. It is unlikely that memorizing a series of rules would allow an uninitiated listener to accurately categorize punk, new wave, fusion, salsa, heavy metal, and rap music.

Types of concepts:
Conjunctive concept. It refers to a class of objects having more than one feature in common. Sometimes called "and" concepts: To belong to the concept class, an item must have "This feature and this feature and this feature." For example, a motorcycle must have two wheels and an engine and handle bars.

Relational concepts. They classify objects on the basis of their relationship to something else or by the relationship between features of an object. Larger, above, left, north, and upside down are all relational concepts. Another example is sister, which is defined as "a female considered in her relation to another person having the same parents."

Disjunctive concepts. These refer to objects that have at least one of several possible features. These are "either-or concepts." To belong, an item must have "this feature or that feature or another feature." In the game of baseball, a strike is either a swing and a miss or a pitch down the middle or a foul ball. The either-or quality of disjunctive concepts makes them difficult to learn.

Prototypes. In addition to rules and features, most people also use prototypes, or ideal models, to identify concepts. A robin, for instance, is a model bird, whereas an ostrich is not. What this tells us is that not all examples of a concept are equally representative. How do we know when the line is crossed from tall cup to vase? Probably we mentally compare objects to an "ideal" cup. The upshot is taht identifying concepts is difficult when we cannot come up with a prototype relevant to what we see.

Concepts have two types of meaning:
Denotative meaning. The denotative meaning of a word or concept is its exact definition.

Connotative meaning. It is its emotional or personal meaning. Connotations of some one thing can differ.

Osgood's Semantic differential. Method used to measure connotative meaning. When words or concepts are rated on a series of scales, most of their connotative meaning boils down to the dimensions good-bad, strong-weak, and active-passive. Because concepts vary on these dimensions, words or phrases with roughly the same denotative meaning may have very different connotations. For example, I am conscientious; you are careful; he is nit-picking!

Rate this word: JAZZ
Rounded - Angular
Strong - Weak
Smooth - Rough
Passive - Active
Large - Small
Hot - Cold
Bad - Good
Relaxed - Tense
Dry - Wet
Stale - Fresh

[Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989. Chapter: Learning & Cognition]

R  E  F  E  R  E  N  C  E  S 
Concept 1. a general notion or idea; conception. 2. an idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics or particulars; a construct. [< L concept(um) something conceived . . . . capere to seize . . . . ] Conception 1. the act of conceiving. 2. the state of being conceived. 3. fertillization, inception of pregnancy. 4. origination or beginning. 5. something that is conceived: That machine is the conception of a genius. 6. the act or power of forming notions, ideas, or concepts. 7. a notion, idea, or concept. 8. a design or plan. -Syn. 6. See idea.

[Urdang, Laurence, ed. Random House Dictionary of The English Language. New York: Random House, 1968.]



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