|Neuroscientists have found the sorting center in the brain.|
The results of their study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) show that there are indeed particular brain areas, which become active when a certain strategy of categorisation is applied.
When we categorise objects by comparing it to a prototype, the left fusiform gyrus is activated. This is an area, which is responsible for recognising abstract images. On the other hand, when we compare things to particular examples of a category, there is an activation of the left hippocampus. This field plays an important role for the storage or retrieval of memories.
Categories reduce information load
Thinking in categories or pigeonholing helps our brain in bringing order into a constantly changing world and it reduces the information load. Cognitive scientists differentiate between two main strategies which achieve this: the exemplar strategy and the prototype strategy.
When we want to find out, whether a certain animal fits into the category "bird" we would at first apply the prototype strategy and compare it to an abstract general "bird." This prototype has the defining features of the class, like a beak, feathers or the ability to fly. But when we encounter outliers or exceptions like an emu or a penguin, this strategy may be of no use. Then we apply the exemplar strategy and compare the animal to many different known examples of the category. This helps us find the right category, even for "distant relations."
Read more at Science Daily