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Eleanor Rosch


Eleanor Rosch

Eleanor Rosch (once known as Eleanor Rosch Heider;[1] born 1938[2]) is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in cognitive psychology and primarily known for her work on categorization, in particular her prototype theory, which has profoundly influenced the field of cognitive psychology. Throughout her work Rosch has conducted extensive research focusing on topics including semantic categorization, mental representation of concepts and Linguistics.[3] Her research interests include cognition, concepts, causality, thinking, memory, and cross-cultural, Eastern, and religious psychology. Her more recent work in the psychology of religion has sought to show the implications of Buddhism and contemplative aspects of Western religions for modern psychology.


  • Education 1
  • Field experiments 2
  • Publications 3
    • Books 3.1
    • Book chapters 3.2
    • Papers 3.3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


She completed an undergraduate philosophy thesis at Reed College on Wittgenstein and a paradigm-changing[4] doctoral thesis at Harvard about category formation.

Field experiments

From field experiments she conducted (alongside then husband Karl Heider) in the 1970s with the Dani people of Papua New Guinea, Rosch concluded that when categorizing an everyday object or experience, people rely less on abstract definitions of categories than on a comparison of the given object or experience with what they deem to be the object or experience best representing a category. Although the Dani lack words for all the English colors (their language contained only two color terms dividing all colors into either the "light, bright" category or the "dark, cool" category), Rosch showed that they could still categorize objects by colors for which they had no words. She argued that basic objects have a psychological import that transcends cultural differences and shapes how such objects are mentally represented. She concluded that people in different cultures tend to categorize objects by using prototypes, although the prototypes of particular categories may vary.



  • 1991 (with Francisco Varela and Evan F. Thompson). The Embodied Mind. MIT Press.
  • 1978 (with Lloyd, B., eds). Cognition and Categorization. Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Book chapters

  • 1973, "On the Internal Structure of Perceptual and Semantic Categories." In T. Moore (ed.), Cognitive Development and the Acquisition of Language, New York: Academic Press, 1973.
  • 1974, Linguistic relativity. In: E. Silverstein (ed.) Human Communication: Theoretical Perspectives, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • 1977, "Human Categorization" in Warren, Neil, ed., Advances in Cross-Cultural Psychology 1: 1-72. Academic Press.
  • 1983, "Prototype classification and logical classification: The two systems" in Scholnick, E., New Trends in Cognitive Representation: Challenges to Piaget's Theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: 73-86


On categorization and prototype theory
  • Rosch, E.H. (1973). "Natural categories".  
  • Rosch, R.H. (1975). "Cognitive reference points".  
  • 1975, "Cognitive representation of semantic categories," Journal of Experimental Psychology 104(3): 192-233.
  • Rosch, E.H.; Mervis, C.B.; Gray, W.D.; Johnson, D.M.; Boyes-Braem, P. (1976). "Basic objects in natural categories".  
  • Rosch, E.H.; Mervis, C.B. (1981). "Categorization of Natural Objects".  
On psychology of religion
  • Eleanor Rosch (2002). "How to catch James's mystic germ: Religious experience, Buddhist meditation and psychology".  
  • Eleanor Rosch (2003). "The basis of compassion: Western science in dialog with the  
  • Eleanor Rosch (2007). "More than mindfulness: When you have a tiger by the tail, let it eat you".  
  • Eleanor Rosch & Ehman Fallah (2007). "Science and religion, Dalai Lama style".  

See also


  1. ^ "Natural Categories", Cognitive Psychology, Vol.4, No.3, (May 1973), p. 328.
  2. ^ Eleanor Rosch - School of Information Science - Hall of Fame
  3. ^ Rosch, Eleanor (September 1975). "Cognitive representations of Semantic Categories". Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 104 (3): 192–233.  
  4. ^ Levitin, Daniel (2006). This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York: Dutton. p. 141.  

External links

  • Faculty page for Eleanor Rosch at the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Eleanor Rosch's web page on Pitt's Information Science Hall of Fame
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