Professor of Psychology
Cognition & Perception


Research

My work has focused on the psychology of concepts, with a special interest in how concepts relate to word meaning and language comprehension. One major issue is how knowledge is involved in the initial acquisition of a concept. Many theories of concept learning are purely associative or formal accounts in which the properties of objects are associated to the concept (e.g., you see whiskers when you hear the word cat, so you associate whiskers with cats). But much research has now shown that people's knowledge of a domain influences the kinds of features they attend to and learn about. For example, you might pay attention to whether an animal has whiskers but not to the time of day in which you saw it, because time plays no role in understanding of biological kinds. My work has attempted to understand how knowledge affects learning and use of concepts, through tasks such as category learning, induction, and speeded categorization. Ultimately, we hope to develop a theory of how empirical information (like seeing whiskers on cats) combines with prior knowledge to result in a whole conceptual representation.

One important application of research on concepts is its connection to the mental representation of word meanings. There is reason to think that when we use the word chair, say, in a sentence, people understand it by accessing their concept of chairs. Our research has been working out the implications of this claim, especially in the area of conceptual combination, which asks how we understand novel combinations of concept terms, like sewer golf plan or microwave coupons. Recently, I have become interested in the phenomenon of polysemy, which refers to a word having a number of related meanings (e.g., chicken referring to a whole animal or some meat; paper referring to a substance or an oral presentation at a conference). My students and I have been studying polysemy by using traditional psycholinguistic techniques such as priming, as well as by making up our own words and meanings. We have found that there is a relationship between conceptual measures of words (classification and induction) and psycholinguistic measures (priming, comprehension). An important goal of such work is to eventually forge a link between the psychology of concepts and psycholinguistic theories of language use.

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Biography

Education

PhD, Stanford University, 1982
MA, Johns Hopkins University, 1978
BA, Johns Hopkins University, 1978

Employment

Professor, New York University, 2001-present
Professor and Associate Professor, University of Illinois, 1991- 2001
Associate and Assistant Professor, Brown University, 1982-1991
Member of Technical Staff, Bell Laboratories, summer, 1984

Research Interests

Concepts and categories
Concept acquisition; conceptual combination; categorization processes; induction

Psycholinguistics
Word meaning; pragmatics

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The Big Book of Concepts

Concepts embody our knowledge of the kinds of things there are in the world. Tying our past experiences to our present interactions with the environment, they enable us to recognize and understand new objects and events. Concepts are also relevant to understanding domains such as social situations, personality types, and even artistic styles. Yet like other phenomenologically simple cognitive processes such as walking or understanding speech, concept formation and use are maddeningly complex.

Research since the 1970s and the decline of the "classical view" of concepts have greatly illuminated the psychology of concepts. But persistent theoretical disputes have sometimes obscured this progress. The Big Book of Concepts goes beyond those disputes to reveal the advances that have been made, focusing on the major empirical discoveries. By reviewing and evaluating research on diverse topics such as category learning, word meaning, conceptual development in infants and children, and the basic level of categorization, the book develops a much broader range of criteria than is usual for evaluating theories of concepts.

MIT Press

Selected Publications

Zhu, J., & Murphy, G. L. (2013). Influence of emotionally charged information on category-based induction. PLoS ONE, 8, e54286. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054286 [pdf]

Foraker, S., & Murphy, G. L. (2012). Polysemy in sentence comprehension: Effects of meaning dominance. Journal of Memory and Language, 67, 407-425. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2012.07.010 [pdf]

Murphy, G. L., Hampton, J. A., & Milovanovic, G. S. (2012). Semantic memory redux: An experimental test of hierarchical category representation. Journal of Memory and Language, 67, 521-539. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2012.07.005 [pdf]

Murphy, G. L., Chen, S. Y., & Ross, B. H. (2012). Reasoning with uncertain categories. Thinking & Reasoning, 18, 81-117. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L., & Rosengren, K. S. (2010). The two-body problem: Classification and reasoning about polymorphs. Cognitive Studies, 17, 6-35.

Murphy, G. L., & Ross, B. H. (2010a). Category vs. object knowledge in category-based induction. Journal of Memory and Language, 63, 1-17. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L., & Ross, B. H. (2010b). Uncertainty in category-based induction: When do people integrate across categories? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36, 263-276. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L. (2010). What are categories and concepts? In D. Mareschal, P. C. Quinn, & S. Lea (Eds.), The making of human concepts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hoffman, A. B., Harris, H. D., & Murphy, G. L. (2008). Prior knowledge enhances the category dimensionality effect. Memory & Cognition, 36, 256-270. [pdf]

Onishi, K. H., Murphy, G. L., & Bock, K. (2008). Prototypicality in sentence production. Cognitive Psychology, 56, 103-141.
[pdf]

Bott, L., Hoffman, A., & Murphy, G. L. (2007). Blocking in category learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 136, 685-699. [pdf]

Bott, L., & Murphy, G. L. (2007). Subtyping as a knowledge preservation strategy in category learning. Memory & Cognition, 35, 432-443. [pdf]

McElree, B., Murphy, G. L., & Ochoa, T. (2006). Time-course of retrieving conceptual information: A speed-accuracy tradeoff study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 848-853. [pdf]

Hoffman, A., & Murphy, G. L. (2006). Category dimensionality and feature knowledge: When more features are learned as easily as fewer. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 301-315. [pdf]

Pylkkänen, L., Llinas, R., & Murphy, G. L. (2006). The representation of polysemy: MEG evidence. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 97-109. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L., & Ross, B. H. (2005). The two faces of typicality in category-based induction. Cognition, 95, 175-200. [pdf]

Verde, M. F., Murphy, G. L., & Ross, B. H. (2005). Influence of multiple categories in inductive inference. Memory & Cognition, 33, 479-487. [pdf]

Murphy, G.L., & Ross, B.H. (2005). The two faces of typicality in category-based induction. Cognition, 95, 175-200. [pdf]

Rehder, B., & Murphy, G. L. (2003). A knowledge-resonance (KRES) model of knowledge-based category learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 759-784.

Murphy, G. L. (2003). Ecological validity and the study of concepts. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation, Vol. 43 (pp. 1-41). San Diego: Academic Press.

Nguyen, S. P., & Murphy, G. L. (2003). An apple is more than just a fruit: Cross-classification in children's concepts. Child Development, 74, 1783-1806. [pdf]

Klein, D. E., & Murphy, G. L. (2002). Paper has been my ruin: Conceptual relations of polysemous senses. Journal of Memory and Language, 47, 548-570. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L. (2002). The big book of concepts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Murphy, G. L. (2002). Conceptual approaches I: An overview. In D. A. Cruse, F. Hundsnurscher, M. Job, & P. R. Lutzeier (Eds.), Lexicology: An international handbook on the nature and structure of words and vocabularies, Vol. 1 (pp. 269-277) Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Onishi, K. H., & Murphy, G. L. (2002). The discourse model representation of referential and attributive descriptions. Language and Cognitive Processes, 17, 97-122. [pdf]

Klein, D. E., & Murphy, G. L. (2001). The representation of polysemous words. Journal of Memory and Language, 45, 259-282. [pdf]

Lin, E. L., & Murphy, G. L. (2001). Thematic relations in adults' concepts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 3-28. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L. (2001). Causes of taxonomic sorting by adults: A test of the thematic-to-taxonomic shift. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8, 834-839. [pdf]

Kaplan, A. S., & Murphy, G. L. (2000). Category learning with minimal prior knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 829-846. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L. (2000). Explanatory concepts. In R. A. Wilson & F. C. Keil (Eds.), Explanation and cognition (pp. 361-392). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Murphy, G. L., & Kaplan, A. S. (2000). Feature distribution and background knowledge in category learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A: Human Experimental Psychology, 53A, 962-982.

Zelinsky, G. J., & Murphy, G. L. (2000). Synchronizing visual and language processing: An effect of object name length on oculomotor behavior. Psychological Science, 11, 125-131. [pdf]

Kaplan, A. S., & Murphy, G. L. (1999). The acquisition of category structure in unsupervised learning. Memory & Cognition, 27, 699-712.

Murphy, G. L., & Medin, D. L. (1999). The role of theories in conceptual coherence [Reprint of 1985 article]. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), Concepts: Core readings (pp. 425-458). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Murphy, G. L., & Ross, B. H. (1999). Induction with cross-classified categories. Memory & Cognition, 27, 1024-1041.

Ross, B. H., & Murphy, G. L. (1999). Food for thought: Cross-classification and category organization in a complex real-world domain. Cognitive Psychology, 38, 495-553. [pdf]

Spalding, T. L., & Murphy, G. L. (1999). What is learned in knowledge-related categories? Evidence from typicality and feature-frequency judgments. Memory & Cognition, 27, 856-867.

Lassaline, M. E., & Murphy, G. L. (1998). Alignment and category learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 24, 144-160. [pdf]

Lin, E. L., & Murphy, G. L. (1997). The effects of background knowledge on object categorization and part detection. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 23, 1153-1169. [pdf]

Lin, E. L., Murphy, G. L., & Shoben, E. J. (1997). The effect of prior processing episodes on basic-level superiority. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 50A, 25-48.

Murphy, G. L. (1997). Polysemy and the creation of new word meanings. In T. B. Ward, S. M. Smith & J. Vaid (Eds.), Creative thought: An investigation of conceptual structures and processes (pp. 235-265). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Murphy, G. L. (1997). Reasons to doubt the present evidence for metaphoric representation. Cognition, 62, 99-108. [pdf]

Gagné, C. L., & Murphy, G. L. (1996). Influence of discourse context on feature availability in conceptual combination. Discourse Processes, 22, 79-101.

Lassaline, M. E., & Murphy, G. L. (1996). Induction and category coherence. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 3, 95-99.

Murphy, G. L. (1996). On metaphoric representation. Cognition, 60, 173-204. [pdf]

Ross, B. H., & Murphy, G. L. (1996). Category-based predictions: Influence of uncertainty and feature associations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22, 736-753.

Spalding, T. L., & Murphy, G. L. (1996). Effects of background knowledge on category construction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22, 525-538.

Malt, B. C., Ross, B. H., & Murphy, G. L. (1995). Predicting features for members of natural categories when categorization is uncertain. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21, 646-661.

Murphy, G. L, & Spalding, T. L. (1995). Knowledge, similarity and concept formation. Psychologica Belgica (Special issue on similarity and categorization), 35, 127-144.

Murphy, G. L., & Allopenna, P. D. (1994). The locus of knowledge effects in concept learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 904-919.

Murphy, G. L., & Ross, B. H. (1994). Predictions from uncertain categorizations. Cognitive Psychology, 27, 148-193.

Murphy, G. L., & Shapiro, A. M. (1994). Forgetting of verbatim information in discourse. Memory & Cognition, 22, 85-94.

Schyns, P., & Murphy, G. L. (1994). The ontogeny of part representation in object concepts. In D. L. Medin (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 31 (pp. 305-349). New York: Academic Press.

Barrett, S. E., Abdi, H., Murphy, G. L., & Gallagher, J. M. (1993). Theory-based correlations and their role in children's concepts. Child Development, 64, 1595-1616.

Gerrig, R. J., & Murphy, G. L. (1993). Contextual influences on the comprehension of complex concepts. In J. Oakhill & A. Garnham (Eds.), Discourse representation and text processing. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Murphy, G. L. (1993). A rational theory of concepts. In G. V. Nakamura, R. M. Taraban, & D. L. Medin (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation (vol. 29): Categorization by humans and machines (pp. 327-359). New York: Academic Press.

Murphy, G. L. (1993). Theories and concept formation. In I. Van Mechelen, J. Hampton, R. Michalski, & P. Theuns (Eds.), Categories and concepts: Theoretical views and inductive data analysis (pp. 173-200). New York: Academic Press.

Murphy, G. L., & Andrew, J. M. (1993). The conceptual basis of antonymy and synonymy in adjectives. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 301-319.

Onishi, K. H., & Murphy, G. L. (1993). Metaphoric reference: When metaphors are not as easily understood as literal expressions. Memory & Cognition, 21, 763-772.

Shapiro, A. M., & Murphy, G. L (1993). Can you answer a question for me? Models of processing indirect speech acts. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 211-229.

Gerrig, R. J., & Murphy, G. L. (1992). Contextual influences on the comprehension of complex concepts. Language and Cognitive Processes, 7, 205-230.

Murphy, G. L. (1992). Comprehension and memory for personal reference: The use of social information in language processing. Discourse Processes, 15, 337-356.

Springer, K., & Murphy, G. L. (1992). Feature availability in conceptual combination. Psychological Science, 3, 111-117.

Murphy, G. L. (1991). Meaning and concepts. In P. Schwanenflugel (Ed.), The psychology of word meaning (pp. 11-35). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Murphy, G. L. (1991). Parts in object concepts: Experiments with artificial categories. Memory & Cognition, 19, 423-438.

Murphy, G. L. (1991). More on parts in object concepts: Response to Tversky and Hemenway. Memory & Cognition, 19, 443-448.

Morris, M. W., & Murphy, G. L. (1990). Converging operations on a basic level in event taxonomies. Memory & Cognition, 18, 407-418.

Murphy, G. L. (1990). Interpretation of verb-phrase anaphora: Influences of task and syntactic context. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 42A, 675-692.

Murphy, G. L. (1990). Noun phrase interpretation and conceptual combination. Journal of Memory and Language, 29, 259-288.

Murphy, G. L. (1990). The psycholinguistics of discourse comprehension. In Y. Joanette & H. H. Brownell (Eds.), Discourse ability and brain damage: Theoretical and empirical perspectives (pp. 28-49). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Murphy, G. L., & Wisniewski, E. J. (1989). Categorizing objects in isolation and in scenes: What a superordinate is good for. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 15, 572-586.

Murphy, G. L., & Wisniewski, E. J. (1989). Feature correlations in conceptual representations. In G. Tiberghien (Ed.), Advances in cognitive science, vol. 2: Theory and applications (pp. 23-45). Chichester: Ellis Horwood.

Wisniewski, E. J., & Murphy, G. L. (1989). Superordinate and basic category names in discourse: A textual analysis. Discourse Processes, 12, 245-261.

Murphy, G. L. (1988). Comprehending complex concepts. Cognitive Science, 12, 529-562.

Murphy, G. L. (1988). Personal reference in English. Language in Society, 17, 317-349.

Anderson, J. A., Golden, R. M., & Murphy, G. L. (1987). Concepts in a distributed system. In H. Szu (Ed.), Hybrid and optical computing. SPIE vol. 634 (pp. 260-276).

Anderson, J. A., & Murphy, G. L. (1986). Concepts in connectionist models. In J. S. Denker (Ed.), Neural networks for computing (pp. 17-22). New York: American Institute of Physics.

Anderson, J. A., & Murphy, G. L. (1986). The psychology of concepts in a parallel system. Physica, 22D, 318-336.

Murphy, G. L. (1985). Processes of anaphoric understanding. Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 290-303.

Murphy, G. L. (1985). Psychological explanations of deep and surface anaphora. Journal of Pragmatics, 9, 171-198. [pdf]

Murphy, G. L., & Brownell, H. H. (1985). Category differentiation in object recognition: Typicality constraints on the basic category advantage. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 11, 70-84.

Murphy, G. L., & Medin, D. L. (1985). The role of theories in conceptual coherence. Psychological Review, 92, 289-316.

Cohen, B., & Murphy, G. L. (1984). Models of concepts. Cognitive Science, 8, 27-58.

Murphy, G. L. (1984). Establishing and accessing referents in discourse. Memory & Cognition, 12, 489-497.

Murphy, G. L., & Wright, J. C. (1984). Changes in conceptual structure with expertise: Differences between real-world experts and novices. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 10, 144-155.

Wright, J. C., & Murphy, G. L. (1984). The utility of theories in intuitive statistics: The robustness of theory-based judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, 301-322.

Clark, H. H., & Murphy, G. L. (1982). Audience design in meaning and reference. In J.-F. LeNy & W. Kintsch (Eds.), Language and comprehension. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Murphy, G. L. (1982). Cue validity and levels of categorization. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 174-177.

Murphy, G. L., & Smith, E. E. (1982). Basic level superiority in picture categorization. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 21, 1-20.

Murphy, G. L., & Hutchinson, J. W. (1982). Memory for forms: Common memory formats for verbal and visual stimulus presentations. Memory & Cognition, 10, 54-61.

Kosslyn, S. M., Murphy, G. L., Bemesderfer, M. E., & Feinstein, K. J. (1977). Category and continuum in mental comparisons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 106, 341-375. [Reprinted in Seamon, J. G. (ed.). (1980). Human memory: Contemporary readings. New York: Oxford University Press.]

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Address

Gregory L. Murphy
Professor of Psychology

Department of Psychology
New York University
6 Washington Place, Room 550
New York, NY 10003

Tel: (212) 998-7791

Email: gregory.murphy@nyu.edu

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Updated