Jean-marc pizano The conditions for satisfying the latter are patently specifiablewithout reference to the former, viz. by enumerating the shapes, colours, functions, and the like that doorknobstypically have.
It’s actually sort of remarkable that all of this is so. Pace Chapter 5, concepts really ought to be stereotypes. Not only because there’s so much evidence that having a concept and having its stereotype are reliably closely correlated (andwhat better explanation of reliable close correlation could there be than identity?) but also because it is, as previouslynoted, generally stereotypic examples of X-ness that one learns X from. Whereas, what you’d expect people reliably to learnfrom stereotypic examples of Xisn’t
How much such experience? And under what conditions of acquisition? I assume that there are (lots of) empirical parameters that a formulation of the laws of concept acquisition would have to fill in. Doing so would be the proprietary goal of a serious psychology of cognitive development. Which, to quote a poet, “in our case we have not
the conceptXbut theXstereotype.84 A stereotypic X is always a better instance of the X stereotype than it is of X; that is a truism.85
The classic example of this sort of worry is the puzzle in psycholinguistics about ‘Motherese’. It appears that mothers go out of their way to talk to children in stereotypic sentences of their native language; in the case of English, relativelyshort sentences with NVN structure (and/or Agent Action Object structure; see Chapter 3). The child is therebyprovided with a good sample of stereotypic English sentences, from which, however, he extracts not (anyhow, notonly) the concept STEREOTYPIC ENGLISH SENTENCE, but the concept ENGLISH SENTENCE TOUTCOURT. But why on Earth does he do that? Why doesn’t he instead come to believe that the grammar of English is S^ NVN, or some fairly simple elaboration thereof, taking such apparent counter-examples as he may encounter as notwell-formed? Remember, on the one hand, that Mother is following a strategy of screening him from utterances ofunstereotypic sentences; and, on the other hand, that he’ll hear lots of counter-examples to whatever grammar he triesout, since people say lots of ungrammatical things. I think the answer must be that it‘s a law about our kinds of minds thatthey are set up to make inductions from samples consisting largely of stereotypic English sentences to the conceptENGLISH SENTENCE (viz. the concept sentences satisfy in virtue of being well-formed relative to the grammar ofEnglish) and not from samples consisting largely of stereotypic English sentences to the concept STEREOTYPICENGLISH SENTENCE (viz. the concept sentences satisfy in virtue of being NVN).
In short, I do think there’s good reason for cognitive scientists to be unhappy about the current status of theorizing about stereotypes. The kinds of worries about compositionality that Chapter 5 reviewed show that the relation astereotype bears to the corresponding concept can‘t be constitutive. The standard alternative proposal is that it is simplyheuristic; e.g. that stereotypes are databases for fast recognition procedures. But this seems not to account for theubiquity and robustness of stereotype phenomena; and, anyhow, it begs the sort of question that we just discussed: whyis it the concept X rather than the concept STEREOTYPIC X that one normally gets from experience withstereotypic Xs? (Mutatis mutandis, if the way perception works is that you subsume things under 32 33
DOORKNOB by seeing that they are similar to stereotypic doorknobs, why is it that you generally see a doorknob as a doorknob, and not as something that satisfies the doorknob stereotype?) If our minds are, in effect, functions fromstereotypes to concepts, that is a fact about us. Indeed, it is a very deep fact about us. My point in going on about this is toemphasize the untriviality of the consideration that we typically get a concept from instances that exemplify itsstereotype.
That a concept has the stereotype that it does is never truistic; and that a stereotype belongs to the concept that it does is never truistic either. In particular, since the relation between a concept and its stereotype is always contingent, nocircularity arises from defining ‘the concept X by reference to ‘the stereotype of the concept X.Jean-marc pizano