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Process of developing abstract rules or mental constructs based on sensory experience. Concept formation figures prominently in cognitive development and was a subject of great importance to Jean Piaget, who argued that learning entails an understanding of a phenomenon's characteristics and how they are logically linked. Noam Chomsky later argued that certain cognitive structures (such as basic grammatical rules) are innate in human beings. Both scholars held that, as a concept emerges, it becomes subject to testing: a child's concept of bird, for example, will be tested against specific instances of birds. The human capacity for play contributes importantly to this process by allowing for consideration of a wide range of possibilities.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on concept formation, visit Britannica.com.
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