Monday, August 07, 2006

Red Hammer

I learnt something last week. I learnt that I should not delete mails without reading them first. Even evil mails with Fwd written all over the subject line. I should give them exactly 10 seconds and decide if I should read them further or not.

Now for the particular mail that set me off on this thoroughly intersting ramble. Many of you might have read this e-mail which asks you to do some irrelevant addition problems and then ambushes you with a sudden, "Think of a colour and a tool quickly". Most people are supposed to think of the colour red and the hammer. ( I wonder what that pervert and miscreant, Freud would have said or thought :D)

Anyways, this got me wondering as I did think of a hammer but not the colour red (I thought of blue), and I set off on a wild google chase. And it did throw up some intersting stuff - Prototype Theory

Now prototype theory, after some rather shallow and quick reading of stuff available online, suggests that there is a graded categorization in the elements that we identify. We understand some of the elememts we perceive based on a distance from a prototype that we have internalised. This internalization happens as we learn to recognize various objects.

here is something that I quote from wikepedia:

The other notion related to prototypes is that of a Basic Level in cognitive categorization. Thus, when asked What are you sitting on?, most subjects prefer to say chair rather than a subordinate such as kitchen chair or a superordinate such as furniture. Basic categories are relatively homogeneous in terms of sensori-motor affordances - a chair is associated with bending of one's knees, a fruit with picking it up and putting it in your mouth, etc. At the subordinate level (e.g. [dentist's chairs], [kitchen chairs] etc.) hardly any significant features can be added to that of the basic level; whereas at the superordinate level, these conceptual similarities are hard to pinpoint. A picture of a chair is easy to draw (or visualize), but drawing furniture would be difficult.

Rosch (1978) defines the basic level as that level that has the highest degree of cue validity. Thus, a category like [animal] may have a prototypical member, but no cognitive visual representation. On the other hand, basic categories in [animal], i.e. [dog], [bird], [fish], are full of informational content and can easily be categorised in terms of Gestalt and semantic features.

And the reason why many people (not 98% as the mail claims) chose red as the colour and hammer as the tool is because, red and hammer are one of the most prototypical in their respective category, colour and tool.


Here are a few links that I read during my wild google chase (I have half a mind to copyright that term :-) )
(Added Later: Darn!!!!! There is always somebody out there who has already done what I wanted to do. )

Vincenze's pit
The language guy
The prototype theory, an analysis by Anastasia Giannakopoulu

(OK, you caught me on the last one, I din't read it completely, somehow, somebody named Anastasia writing about psycology gave me the shivers. And I know, I know, this one has a different last name, but what to doo, I am a last nameless rice eating south Indian onleeee ayyooooo!)


Anonymous Vincenze said...

The same happened to me when I first dug around for a solution... feel sorry for the first guy who spent weeks pondering it :)

Such an interesting puzzle!

3:26 AM  

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