The physics of categorization

Boaz Tamir, Yair Neuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the context of cognition, categorization is the process through which several elements (i.e., words) are grouped into a single set which by naming becomes an abstraction of its elements. For example, tiger, kitty, and max can be categorized as Cats. In this article, we aim to show how the physical, biological and cognitive dimensions are related in the process of categorization or abstraction through the physics of computation. Drawing on Landauer's principle, we show that the price paid in terms of entropy is higher when grouping elements of low ranking (high probability) than when grouping elements of high ranking (low probability). Therefore, the logic of the cognitive process of abstraction is explained through constraints imposed by memory on the computation of categories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-274
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Landauer's principle
  • Zipf's law
  • categorization
  • cognitive computation
  • interdisciplinary research PACS numbers
  • physics of computation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'The physics of categorization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this