Cam: a Spreading Activation Network Model of Subcategory Construction

Zsolt Katona, INSEAD, France
Joseph Lajos, INSEAD, France
Amitava Chattopadhyay, INSEAD, Singapore
Miklos Sarvary, INSEAD, France
A large body of research suggests that people process the entities that they encounter by placing them into mental categories (Barsalou 1992). Although previous research examines how people access information in hierarchical category structures, it does not examine how people construct individual new categories and, in particular, how the locus of these new categories may depend on the structure of the entire hierarchy. We describe this latter process with a spreading activation model of hierarchical category structures that we call the Category Activation Model (CAM). In an experiment and an empirical study, we show that the CAM reliably predicts the probability that a person will construct a new category at a specific location within a category structure, and we provide evidence that accessibility is the mechanism that underlies category construction.
[ to cite ]:
Zsolt Katona, Joseph Lajos, Amitava Chattopadhyay, and Miklos Sarvary (2007) ,"Cam: a Spreading Activation Network Model of Subcategory Construction", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 34, eds. Gavan Fitzsimons and Vicki Morwitz, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 392-394.