Journal of Logic, Language and Information

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 391–420 | Cite as

Vagueness and Order Effects in Color Categorization



This paper proposes an experimental investigation of the use of vague predicates in dynamic sorites. We present the results of two studies in which subjects had to categorize colored squares at the borderline between two color categories (Green vs. Blue, Yellow vs. Orange). Our main aim was to probe for hysteresis in the ordered transitions between the respective colors, namely for the longer persistence of the initial category. Our main finding is a reverse phenomenon of enhanced contrast (i.e. negative hysteresis), present in two different tasks, a comparative task involving two color names, and a yes/no task involving a single color name, but not found in a corresponding color matching task. We propose an optimality-theoretic explanation of this effect in terms of the strict-tolerant framework of Cobreros et al. (J Philos Log 1–39, 2012), in which borderline cases are characterized in a dual manner in terms of overlap between tolerant extensions, and underlap between strict extensions.


Vagueness Borderline cases Dynamic sorites  Color categorization Hysteresis Enhanced contrast Order effects  Strict-tolerant semantics Contextualism Contradictions 



This work would not have been possible without institutional support, nor without the help and input of many people. First and foremost, we gratefully acknowledge the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, grant ANR-07-JCJC-0070, program “Cognitive Origins of Vagueness”, for funding. We thank Isabelle Brunet, Julien Boyer, Mélanie Brun, Claire Mégnin for their technical assistance, and the LSCP in Paris, where the experiments took place. Warm thanks go to Jean-Michel Hupé, Daniel Pressnitzer, Jean-Luc Schwartz for inspiring discussions and technical advice, as well as to participants in the ANR project MULTISTAP, where different stages of this paper were presented during meetings held in Grenoble, Lyon and Paris. Special thanks go to Diana Raffman for her pioneering work and input on this topic, and for numerous crucial exchanges over the years, as well as to Alan Hájek, Jakub Szymanik, and two anonymous reviewers of the journal for detailed comments and helpful criticisms. We also thank audiences at LSCP, at the Jean-Nicod Institute in Paris, and at ESSLLI 2012 in Opole, where this paper was presented. Further thanks go to various colleagues for related work, conversations and encouragements since 2008, in particular to Pablo Cobreros, Emmanuel Chemla, Igor Douven, James Hampton, Sid Kouider, Robert van Rooij and Jérôme Sackur. We also thank the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) and the project ‘Borderlineness and Tolerance’ (FFI2010-16984), Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Government of Spain. Authorship is equally shared between the three authors of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Egré
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vincent de Gardelle
    • 3
  • David Ripley
    • 4
  1. 1.Institut Jean-Nicod (CNRS-ENS-EHESS) ParisFrance
  2. 2.NYU, Department of PhilosophyNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Psychologie de la PerceptionUniversite Paris Descartes, CNRSParisFrance
  4. 4.University of ConnecticutDepartment of PhilosophyStorrsUSA

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