You are what you’re for: Essentialist categorization in large language models

Proceedings of the 45Th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (forthcoming)
  Copy   BIBTEX


How do essentialist beliefs about categories arise? We hypothesize that such beliefs are transmitted via language. We subject large language models (LLMs) to vignettes from the literature on essentialist categorization and find that they align well with people when the studies manipulated teleological information -- information about what something is for. We examine whether in a classic test of essentialist categorization -- the transformation task -- LLMs prioritize teleological properties over information about what something looks like, or is made of. Experiments 1 and 2 find that telos and what something is made of matter more than appearance. Experiment 3 manipulates all three factors and finds that what something is for matters more than what it's made of. Overall, these studies suggest that language alone may be sufficient to give rise to essentialist beliefs, and that information about what something is for matters more.

Author's Profile

David Rose
Stanford University


Added to PP

169 (#56,739)

6 months
169 (#6,442)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?