Concepts embody our knowledge of the kinds of things there are in the world. Tying our past experiences to our present interactions with the environment, they enable us to recognize and understand new objects and events. Concepts are also relevant to understanding domains such as social situations, personality types, and even artistic styles. Yet like other phenomenologically simple cognitive processes such as walking or understanding speech, concept formation and use are maddeningly complex.
Research since the 1970s and the decline of the "classical view" of concepts have greatly illuminated the psychology of concepts. But persistent theoretical disputes have sometimes obscured this progress. The Big Book of Concepts
goes beyond those disputes to reveal the advances that have been made, focusing on the major empirical discoveries. By reviewing and evaluating research on diverse topics such as category learning, word meaning, conceptual development in infants and children, and the basic level of categorization, the book develops a much broader range of criteria than is usual for evaluating theories of concepts.
"This is going to be the classic text in the field for a very long time."
"We've needed a book like this for the past decade. The Big Book of Concepts
is beautifully done in so many ways and a true service to the field. Murphy's ambitious and integrated review is unusually thorough, thoughtful, and fair in its coverage of the diverse literatures on concepts. Graduate students will remember this volume the rest of their careers for what it taught them, and seasoned researchers will use it as the authoritative source to fill holes in their knowledge."
—Lawrence W. Barsalou
, Department of Psychology, Emory University
"The study of concepts has flourished in recent years, and Murphy has been one of the leading figures behind several changes in how we view concepts, their mental representation, and their use. The Big Book of Concepts
offers a superb discussion of recent research from a wide variety of perspectives. This book is essential reading not only for those interested in concepts directly but also for those interested in cognitive development, word meaning, and many other related areas of cognitive science."
—Frank C. Keil
, Professor, Department of Psychology, Yale University
"This book is a landmark achievement in the cognitive science of human concepts. It beautifully integrates experimental data and theories to arrive at a rich account of how concepts are learned, represented, interrelated, used, combined, and changed."
, Professor of Psychology, Program in Cognitive Science, Indiana University
"Murphy's well-written Big Book of Concepts provides a much-needed overview of the rapidly developing field of concept learning and use. This book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the theories and empirical studies that will provide the foundation for new research for decades to come."
—Arthur B. Markman
, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin