Standard Article

Concept Formation

  1. Robert L. Goldstone,
  2. Thomas T. Hill,
  3. Samuel B. Day

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0215

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Goldstone, R. L., Hill, T. T. and Day, S. B. 2010. Concept Formation. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Indiana University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


A concept is a mentally possessed idea or notions that can be used to categorize information or objects. Over the course of each person's lifetime, thousands of concepts are learned for nouns like corkscrew, justice, and doorknob; for adjectives like green, symmetric, and beautiful; and for verbs like kick, climb, and eschew. Although some philosophers have maintained that we do not genuinely learn new concepts through induction (Fodor, 1998), most psychologists believe that concepts can be learned and that the representational capacity of learners increases as they acquire new concepts. Most efforts have been spent developing accounts of how people acquire and represent concepts, including models based on rules, exemplars, boundaries, and theories.


  • concepts;
  • learning;
  • representation;
  • prototypes;
  • exemplars