Process of Concept Formation

Concepts allow people to think about things or situations without considering every single category example. For instance, thinking about "fruit" is possible without considering every type of fruit that exists worldwide, which would require much more time and effort. We can communicate with one another because we can think about concepts. For example, if I mention a bird to you, you will understand what I mean even though we are not thinking about the same kind of bird.

What is a Concept?

Concepts represent how the Subject perceives or approaches reality. To explain why people act the way they do and to forecast what they might do next, everyday reasoning about people's thoughts and behavior frequently refers to concepts. Concepts can be either abstract (e.g., air) or physical, like a balloon. One of the most crucial aspects of concepts is that they serve as the basis for behavior rather than reality itself. Both abstraction and generalization are necessary for a concept; the former isolates the trait, and the latter acknowledges that it may be ascribed to different things.

What is Concept Formation?

Concept formation is a higher-order mental activity that operates on information processed and stored in memory after being experienced by our sensory organs. This process involves categorizing the data conceptually and applying that knowledge to planning, goal-setting, problem-solving, and reasoning. According to the task demands, these categories are recalled from long-term memory. It is believed that such information is processed by ventral neural pathways that connect the temporal cortex to the visual cortex. Understanding the requirements of task and goal fulfillment is greatly aided by developing concepts and knowledge. Through categorizing, infants and young children develop concepts about things, people, and actions. Infants, for instance, learn to classify faces as familiar and unfamiliar quite early in their development.

Contribution of Lev Vygotsky

With his double stimulation theory, Vygotsky (1997) created an explicit link between concept formation and volition. Future-oriented thought development and volitional action to make the future go hand in hand in collaborative activities. We can discuss perspectival notions that are future-focused or possibility concepts, and these traits suggest a significant, although as-yet-unexplored, the link between concept formation and volition. Volition can be interpreted as the ability to create and carry out intentions that transcend and change the normative practices and predetermined circumstances of the activity in which the subjects are engaged.

Elements of Concept Formation

Major elements of concept of formation are

The processes of grouping and differentiation are essential components of concept formation. They are defined as follows

  • Grouping entails the "chunking" of information into larger chunks. Because the performer needs to focus on groupings of information rather than each item separately, chunking makes the system work more effectively. Grouping lessens the task's attentional demands and enables people to focus their attention on other, more crucial stimuli.

  • Differentiation, on the other hand, describes the process through which performers take in more detail from various stimuli as they get used to them.

Process of Concept Formation

When two people first meet, it is their first chance to form initial impressions and judgments about the other. The observer goes through a concept-formation process in this situation. There are two opposing cognitive theories for concept formation.

Attribute List Theory

It suggests that concepts are kept in semantic memory, the memory required for language usage, in terms of their symbolic characteristics (attributes). Therefore, when a person comes across something, such as a new mobile phone, they try to categorize it in terms of previously held ideas (such as existing phones) with which it has characteristics in common. In this classification procedure, the features of the product stimuli are compared to those of other concepts stored in semantic memory. The majority of applications of the multi-attribute attitude paradigm implicitly make use of this concept structure model.

Prototype Theory

Rosch (1975) proposes a different paradigm based on the idea that concepts are remembered by way of their "most typical" illustrations, or "prototypes." According to research, people are quickest to recognize inputs similar to the concept prototype. The concepts of an internalized product prototype that Rosch discusses originate in Bartlett's preliminary studies on memory schemata. To put it simply, the schema is an abstract analogical representation of concepts made up of a fundamental collection of details that capture the essence or gist of the stimuli. According to findings from their experiments, "during learning, the subject gets knowledge not just about the prototype stimulus, but also about the variability among instances of a particular class; individuals learn to identify the best instance of the category, as well as something about the permissible variability or distance among admissible stimuli." A Ford Fairmont sedan, for example, may more closely resemble the prototype of the product concept "automobile," because this group of products shares its attributes.

Concept Formation and Structures

Human knowledge is conceptual and exists as a totality. Two subjects must be considered when describing human knowledge: context and hierarchy. The two concepts have far-reaching ramifications for concept generation and organizational structure. Meaningful interpretations of concepts are provided by the context in which they are generated. The theoretical view of ideas seeks to capture the contextual element of concepts to a considerable level. It is considered that one's theory of a domain influences the production of individual ideas as well as the broader conceptual structure. Theory and sophisticated knowledge structures are important in concept creation, combination, and learning.

Human knowledge is organized in the form of a tower or partial ordering. The most fundamental concepts are the foundation or minimum aspects of the hierarchy, while higher-level concepts rely on lower-level notions. The first-level notion is immediately produced from perceptual data. Higher-level ideas represent a reasonably advanced state of knowledge and are created by an abstraction-from-abstractions process. There are two fundamental challenges in concept formation: aggregation and characterization. Aggregation is the identification of a collection of items in order for them to create an extension of a notion. Characterization attempts to characterize the derived collection of objects in order to determine the concept's intention. For aggregation, two basic processes are considered: differentiation and integration. Differentiation allows us to understand the distinctions between items and to distinguish one or more objects from others. Integration is the process of combining pieces to form an indivisible whole. Characterization, the final phase in idea development, defines a notion.


According to some cognitive researchers, an accommodation between the opposing paradigms of prototype theory of concept formation and attribute list theory may be achievable. They point out that if one replaces the idea of concept representation through attribute lists with a model based on attribute frequency, the two perspectives are not mutually contradictory. For example, a person's capacity to accurately categorize and assess a novel automobile is constrained by the frequency and pattern of attribute overlap with the prototype concept of the "automobile" the person has in mind. Thus, a theoretical compromise position may be created by combining ideas from the attribute list and prototype paradigms of concept formation.

Updated on: 15-Dec-2022

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