Theories of cognition and image categorization: What category labels reveal about basic level theory



Information search and retrieval interactions usually involve information content in the form of document collections, information retrieval systems and interfaces, and the user. To fully understand information search and retrieval interactions between users' cognitive space and the information space, researchers need to turn to cognitive models and theories. In this article, the authors use one of these theories, the basic level theory. Use of the basic level theory to understand human categorization is both appropriate and essential to user-centered design of taxonomies, ontologies, browsing interfaces, and other indexing tools and systems. Analyses of data from two studies involving free sorting by 105 participants of 100 images were conducted. The types of categories formed and category labels were examined. Results of the analyses indicate that image category labels generally belong to superordinate to the basic level, and are generic and interpretive. Implications for research on theories of cognition and categorization, and design of image indexing, retrieval and browsing systems are discussed.