Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Rule and similarity as prototype concepts

Edward E. Smith a1
a1 Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109 [email protected]


There is a continuum between prototypical cases of rule use and prototypical cases of similarity use. A prototypical rule: (1) is explicitly represented, (2) can be verbalized, and (3) requires that the user selectively attend to a few features of the object, while ignoring the others. Prototypical similarity-use requires that: (1) the user should match the object to a mental representation holistically, and (2) there should be no selective attention or inhibition. Neural evidence supports prototypical rule-use. Most models of categorization fall between the two prototypes.