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Daniel Casasanto (Cornell University)
Daniel Casasanto (Cornell University)

Tue, 13 Jun


Online Lecture

Daniel Casasanto (Cornell University)

Daniel Casasanto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Cornell University. His research explores how language, culture, and bodily experiences influence the way people think, feel, and make decisions.


13 Jun 2023, 16:00 – 18:00 CEST

Online Lecture



All Concepts Are Ad Hoc Concepts


To explain how people think and communicate, cognitive scientists posit a repository of concepts, categories, and word meanings that are stable across time and shared across individuals. In this talk, I’ll argue that this stability is an illusion: All concepts, categories, and word meanings (CC&Ms) are constructed ad hoc, each time we use them. On this proposal, all words are infinitely polysemous, all communication is “good enough,” and no idea is ever the same twice. The details of people’s ad hoc CC&Ms are determined by the way retrieval cues (such as words) interact with the physical, social, and linguistic context. Commonalities across instantiations of CC&Ms yield some emergent stability and create the appearance of context-independent core properties. Yet, arguably even the most stable-seeming CC&Ms are instantiated via the same processes as those that are more obviously ad hoc, and they vary (a) from one microsecond to the next within a given instantiation, (b) from one instantiation to the next within an individual, and (c) from person to person and group to group as a function of people’s experiential history. If this is true, then a central goal of research on language and cognition should be to understand how people construct the fleeting, idiosyncratic neurocognitive representations that we actually use for thinking and communicating, rather than to discern the nature and origin of context-independent CC&Ms, which only exist as theoretical abstractions.

Zoom meeting ID: 614 8076 0079

Zoom passcode: CEN23

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