Cookies Policy
X
Cookie Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Squaring the Circle: The Cultural Relativity of 'Good' Shape

MyBook is a cheap paperback edition of the original book and will be sold at uniform, low price.

Buy this article

Price:
$30.00+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites

image of Journal of Cognition and Culture

The Gestalt theorists of the early twentieth century proposed a psychological primacy for circles, squares and triangles over other shapes. They described them as 'good' shapes and the Gestalt premise has been widely accepted. Rosch (1973), for example, suggested that shape categories formed around these 'natural' prototypes irrespective of the paucity of shape terms in a language. Rosch found that speakers of a language lacking terms for any geometric shape nevertheless learnt paired-associates to these 'good' shapes more easily than to asymmetric variants. We question these empirical data in the light of the accumulation of recent evidence in other perceptual domains that language affects categorization. A cross-cultural investigation sought to replicate Rosch's findings with the Himba of Northern Namibia who also have no terms in their language for the supposedly basic shapes of circle, square and triangle. A replication of Rosch (1973) found no advantage for these 'good' shapes in the organization of categories. It was concluded that there is no necessary salience for circles, squares and triangles. Indeed, we argue for the opposite because these shapes are rare in nature. The general absence of straight lines and symmetry in the perceptual environment should rather make circles, squares and triangles unusual and, therefore, less likely to be used as prototypes in categorization tasks. We place shape as one of the types of perceptual input (in philosophical terms, 'vague') that is readily susceptible to effects of language variation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Essex.; 2: Goldsmiths College University of London.

Sign-in

Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Create email alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Name:*
    Email:*
    Your details
    Name:*
    Email:*
    Department:*
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
     
     
     
     
    Other:
     
    Journal of Cognition and Culture — Recommend this title to your library

    Thank you

    Your recommendation has been sent to your librarian.

  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation