What is a concept?
An abstraction?, cognitive building block, a container for idea(s)?, a symbol & representation?, a tool for indexing, learning, memory and navigation?, a fundamental language construct?, a reified cognitive artifact?, a category? Concepts can be any unit of thought or a mental image formed by generalization.
Any concept is more than its name, the links to related concepts define its meaning, every concept has a life-cycle. A concept is an abstract, universal psychical entity that serves to designate a category or class of entities, events or relations. WikiPedia
So what does a concept look like?
Fuzzy or crisp boundaries with gradational or binary membership?, does the essential meaning morph with community membership? is there a universal classification of concept types?, is a concept both a personal or group possession?
Concepts are defined along multiple dimensions: abstract-concrete, conjunctive-disjunctive, artificial-natural, well-defined/ill-defined, object-event.....
Why are concepts important?
Our beliefs, world views, creativity and communication ability, depend on the concepts we hold, how strongly we hold them and ways we can change them. Concepts are the building blocks for analytical and mental models. Making concepts explicit and visual helps promote learning, knowledge construction and assists with memory retention.
are key entities for knowledge work. They solidify ideas, reify emergent
distinctions, help with articulation & explication, aid discovery and meme
We now have the means to access and navigate texts at the level of the contained concepts. This has important implications for personal learning, JIT knowledge provision, spawns new revenue models and helps with profile building. Tagging gives concept level ways to classify and retrieve works.
How are new concepts acquired?
Mostly from instances through; abstraction of invariant features, hypothesis testing, selection of prototypes. Acquisition may be through language using definitions, synonyms, analogy, and metaphor. A fundamental difference in conceptual approach is found between 'lumpers & splitters'
This article by Joe Novak explores the theory, provides practical tools and tips for mapping concepts
- How are concepts related to categories and classification?,
- What are the 'hidden politics' in concept formation and agreement,
- How do concepts relate to knowledge construction and 'bringing forth our worlds'?
My previous thoughts on concepts – coming in a kind of circle.