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 


  1. Alxatib, S., & Pelletier, F. (2011). The psychology of vagueness: Borderline cases and contradictions. Mind & Language, 26(3), 287–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bonini, N., Osherson, D., Viale, R., & Williamson, T. (1999). On the psychology of vague predicates. Mind & Language, 14(4), 377–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cobreros, P., Egré, P., D., R., & van Rooij, R. (2014). Vagueness, truth and permissive consequence. In D. Achouriotti, H. Galinon, & J. Martinez, (Eds.), Unifying the philosophy of truth. Springer (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  4. Cobreros, P., Egré, P., Ripley, D., & van Rooij, R. (2012). Tolerant, classical, strict. The Journal of Philosophical Logic, 41(2), 347–385.Google Scholar
  5. Douven, I., Decock, L., Dietz, R., & Egré, P. (2013). Vagueness: A conceptual spaces approach. The Journal of Philosophical Logic, 42(1), 137–160.Google Scholar
  6. Egré, P. (2009). Soritical series and Fisher series. In A. Hieke, & H. Leitgeb, (Eds.), Reduction: Between the mind and the brain (pp. 91–115). Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.Google Scholar
  7. Egré, P. (2011). Perceptual ambiguity and the sorites. In R. Nouwen, R. van Rooij, U. Sauerland, & H. Schmitz (Eds.), Vagueness in communication (pp. 64–90). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Fine, K. (1975). Vagueness, truth, and logic. Synthese, 30, 265–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hampton, J. A., Estes, Z., & Simmons, C. L. (2005). Comparison and contrast in perceptual categorization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31(6), 1459.Google Scholar
  10. Hock, H., Bukowski, L., Nichols, D., Huisman, A., & Rivera, M. (2004). Dynamical vs. judgmental comparison: Hysteresis effects in motion perception. Spatial Vision, 18(3), 317–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hock, H., Kelso, J., & Schöner, G. (1993). Bistability and hysteresis in the organization of apparent motion patterns. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 19(1), 63–80.Google Scholar
  12. Horgan, T. (1994). Robust vagueness and the forced-march sorites paradox. Philosophical Perspectives, 8, 159–188.Google Scholar
  13. Hyde, D. (1997). From heaps and gaps to heaps of gluts. Mind, 106(424), 641–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kalmus, H. (1979). Dependence of colour naming and monochromator setting on the direction of preceding changes in wavelength. British Journal of Physiological Optics, 32(2), 1–9.Google Scholar
  15. Kamp, H. (1981). The paradox of the heap. In U. Mönnich (Ed.), Aspects of philosophical logic (pp. 225–277). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  16. Kelso, S. (1995). Dynamic patterns. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Lindsey, D., Brown, A., & Raffman, D. (2005). Hysteresis effects in a sorites series. Manuscript, cited in D. Raffman 2005.Google Scholar
  18. Raffman, D. (1994). Vagueness without paradox. The philosophical Review, 103(1), 41–74.Google Scholar
  19. Raffman, D. (2005). How to understand contextualism about vagueness. Analysis, 65(3), 244–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Raffman, D. (2009). Tolerance and the competent use of vague words. In Unruly words: A study of vague language. Chapter 5, Book in Preparation.Google Scholar
  21. Ripley, D. (2011). Contradictions at the border. In R. Nouwen, H.-C. Schmitz, & R. van Rooij, (Eds.), Vagueness in communication.Google Scholar
  22. Serchuk, P., Hargreaves, I., & Zach, R. (2011). Vagueness, logic and use: Four experimental studies on vagueness. Mind & Language, 26(5), 540–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Smith, N. J. J. (2008). Vagueness and degrees of truth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tuller, B., Case, P., Ding, M., & Kelso, J. (1994). The nonlinear dynamics of speech categorization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20(1), 3.Google Scholar
  25. Williamson, T. (1994). Vagueness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations