Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)
Given one feature of a novel animal, humans readily make inferences about other features of the animal. For example, winged creatures often fly, and creatures that eat fish often live in the water. We explore the knowledge that supports these inferences and compare two approaches. The first approach proposes that humans rely on abstract representations of dependency relationships between features, and is formalized here as a graphical model. The second approach proposes that humans rely on specific knowledge of previously encountered animals, and is formalized here as a family of exemplar models. We evaluate these models using a task where participants reason about chimeras, or animals with pairs of features that have not previously been observed to co-occur. The results support the hypothesis that humans rely on explicit representations of relationships between features.