B01Cognitive Human Differentiation

The Situative Ebb and Flow of Relevant Categorisation

Navigating the social world …

The starting hypothesis of this project on cognitive human differentiation is that people strive to navigate their social environment. Categories of ‘types of humans’ help them to make it appear more orderly and predictable. Spontaneously putting people into boxes and expecting exemplars in one box to behave in a certain way can reduce complexity.

… but how?

Although there is already ample evidence that categories of, e.g., gender, age, and ethnicity are formed and used this way, it is largely an open question which of these oftentimes coexisting distinctions will prevail. Under what circumstances do people look at others through the lens of gender, when do they sort primarily by age?

Situational affordances

Our project investigates how cognitive schemata flexibly adapt to situational circumstances. We focus on three variables and their affordance potential to prompt one (or another) form of categorisation: (1) perceived similarity based on the distribution of potential dimensions of differentiation (discrete clumps versus overlapping sets), (2) numerical majority relations (salient minority versus surrounding majority), or (3) functional relevance (does the distinction help me make a decision?).