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First published online February 28, 2020

Abstractions are good for brains and machines: A commentary on Ambridge (2020)


In ‘Against Stored Abstractions,’ Ambridge uses neural and computational evidence to make his case against abstract representations. He argues that storing only exemplars is more parsimonious – why bother with abstraction when exemplar models with on-the-fly calculation can do everything abstracting models can and more – and implies that his view is well supported by neuroscience and computer science. We argue that there is substantial neural, experimental, and computational evidence to the contrary: while both brains and machines can store exemplars, forming categories and storing abstractions is a fundamental part of what they do.

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Article first published online: February 28, 2020
Issue published: October-December 2020


  1. Abstraction
  2. child language acquisition
  3. exemplar account
  4. natural language processing
  5. neuroscience

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Published online: February 28, 2020
Issue published: October-December 2020



Jordan Kodner
University of Pennsylvania, USA


Kathryn D. Schuler, Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania, Room 314C, 3401-C Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Email: [email protected]

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