A concept is defined as an abstract idea. It is understood to be a fundamental building block underlying principles, thoughts and beliefs. Concepts play an important role in all aspects of cognition. As such, concepts are studied within such disciplines as linguistics, psychology, and philosophy, and these disciplines are interested in the logical and psychological structure of concepts, and how they are put together to form thoughts and sentences. The study of concepts has served as an important flagship of an emerging interdisciplinary approach, cognitive science.
Concepts are classified into a hierarchy, higher levels of which are termed "superordinate" and lower levels termed "subordinate". Additionally, there is the "basic" or "middle" level at which people will most readily categorize a concept. For example, a basic-level concept would be "chair", with its superordinate, "furniture", and its subordinate, "easy chair".
Concepts may be exact, or inexact. When the mind makes a generalization such as the concept of tree, it extracts similarities from numerous examples; the simplification enables higher-level thinking. A concept is instantiated (reified) by all of its actual or potential instances, whether these are things in the real world or other ideas.
Concepts are studied as components of human cognition in the cognitive science disciplines of linguistics, psychology, and philosophy, where an ongoing debate asks whether all cognition must occur through concepts. Concepts are regularly formalized in mathematics, computer science, databases and artificial intelligence. Examples of specific high-level conceptual classes in these fields include classes, schema or categories. In informal use the word concept often just means any idea.
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