Are Bottles Similar to One Another? Sorting and Naming by Chinese, Argentinians, and Americans

Steven A. Sloman
Barbara C. Malt
Meiyi Shi
Silvia Gennari
Yuan Wa

Abstract Are objects that share a name all similar to one another? Functionally, name categories are distinct from similarity-based categories in that only name categories necessarily serve a communicative function. Indeed, only name categories require explicit boundaries. We examine the relation between the two kinds of categorization by comparing linguistic category boundaries and perceived similarity for speakers of Chinese, Spanish, and English for sixty common containers. Although the two groups have different linguistic categories, their overall, physical, and functional similarity judgments were largely convergent. Two sources of complexity in naming are described that distinguish naming from similarity judgment.