Publication Date



Three experiments examined the effect of verbal labels on the perception of category members. Participants were presented with silhouette drawings of female body types, ordered on a continuum from very thin to very heavy, and asked to judge the degree of similarity between pairs, as well as absolute weight of each silhouette. The presence/absence of category boundaries and labels were experimentally manipulated (Exp. 1–3), as was the “strength” of the labels (Exp. 2 and 3), their source (Exp. 1 and 2), and their implications (Exp. 3). The presence of a label, even when self-generated, showed clear effects on judgment: labels consistently increased within-category similarity (assimilation), and reduced across-category similarity (contrast). The judged strength of the verbal labels was correlated with the strength of categorization effects.

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.