Predicting focal colors with a rational model of representativeness

Predicting focal colors with a rational model of representativeness

6 Pages · 2012 · 277 KB · English

foci, in color space, corresponding to the best examples of what would be . between two colors in CIELAB is roughly proportional to the perceptual . of the empirical WCS focus distribution and the five models' predicted focus 

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Predicting focal colors with a rational model of representativeness Joshua T Abbott ([email protected]) Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 USA Terry Regier ([email protected]) Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science Program, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 USA Thomas L Grifths (tom grif[email protected]) Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 USA Abstract Best examples of categories lie at the heart of two major de bates in cognitive science, one concerning universal focal col ors across languages, and the other concerning the role of rep resentativeness in inference Here we link these two debates We show that best examples of named color categories across 110 languages are wellpredicted by a rational model of repre sentativeness, and that this model outperforms several natural competitors We conclude that categorization in the contested semantic domain of color may be governed by general princi ples that apply more broadly in cognition, and that these prin ciples clarify the interplay of universal and languagespecic forces in color naming Keywords: Language and perception; semantic universals; color naming; representativeness; Bayesian inference Introduction Do the world's languages reect a universal repertoire of cog nitive and perceptual categories? Or do different languages partition the experienced world in fundamentally different ways? These questions have been pursued in depth in the do main of color naming and cognition (eg Berlin & Kay, 1969; Kay & McDaniel, 1978; Lindsey & Brown, 2006; Rober son, Davidoff, Davies, & Shapiro, 2005; Roberson, Davies, & Davidoff, 2000), and current ndings suggest an inter estingly mixed picture There are clear universal tendencies of color naming across languages, but there is also substan tial crosslanguage variation (eg Regier, Kay, & Khetarpal, 2007), more than is suggested by traditional universalist ac counts At the center of this debate is the disputed role of focal colors , or the best examples of named color categories It has long been claimed that color naming across lan guages is constrained by six universal privileged points, or foci, in color space, corresponding to the best examples of what would be described in English as white,black ,red ,yel low ,green , and blue This view has received empirical sup port: the best examples of color terms across languages tend to cluster near these six points (Berlin & Kay, 1969; Regier, Kay, & Cook, 2005), and these colors have also been found to be cognitively privileged (Heider, 1972; but see Roberson et al, 2000) A natural and inuential proposal (Kay & Mc Daniel, 1978) is that these privileged colors constitute a uni versal foundation for color naming, such that languages dif fer in their color naming systems primarily by grouping these universal foci together into categories in different ways Roberson et al (2000) advanced a diametrically opposed view of color naming, and of the role of best examples in it They argued that color categories are not dened around uni versal foci, but are instead dened at their boundaries by local linguistic convention, which varies across languages They proposed: “Once a category has been delineated at the bound aries, exposure to exemplars may lead to the abstraction of a central tendency so that observers behave as if their categories have prototypes” (p 395) On this view, best examples do not reect a universal cognitive or perceptual substrate, but are merely an aftereffect of category construction by language: best examples are derived from languagespecic boundaries, rather than boundaries from universal best examples A proposal by Jameson and D'Andrade (1997) has the po tential to reconcile these two opposed stances This proposal holds that there are genuine universals of color naming, but they do not stem from a small set of focal colors Instead, universals of color naming may stem from irregularities in the overall shape of perceptual color space, which is partitioned into categories by language in a nearoptimally informative way This proposal has been shown to explain universal ten dencies in the boundariesof color categories (Regier et al, 2007) However it has not yet provided an account of best examples of these categories, which lie

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