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See Generalization (learning) for the cognitive process.

A generalization of a concept is an extension of the concept to less-specific criteria. It is a foundational element of logic and human reasoning. Generalization posits the existence of a domain or set of elements, as well as one or more common characteristics shared by those elements. As such, it is the essential basis of all valid deductive inference. The process of verification is necessary to determine whether a generalization holds true for any given situation.

The concept of generalization has broad application in many related disciplines, sometimes having a specialized context-specific meaning.

For any two related concepts, A and B; A is considered a generalization of concept B if and only if:

  • every instance of concept B is also an instance of concept A; and
  • there are instances of concept A which are not instances of concept B.

For instance, animal is a generalization of bird because every bird is an animal, and there are animals which are not birds (dogs, for instance). (See also: specialization).

On a side note, a common joke goes like this:

"All generalizations are false!"

This is known as a self-contradictory statement.

Hypernym and hyponym

This kind of generalization versus specialization (or particularization) is reflected in the mirror of the contrasting words of the three word pair hypernym and hyponym. A hypernym as a generic stands for a class or group of equally-ranked items...... such as tree does for peach and oak; or ship for cruiser and steamer. Whereas a hyponym is one of the items included in the generic, such as lily and daisy are included in flower, and bird and fish in animal. A hypernym is superordinate to a hyponym, and a hyponym is subordinate to hypernym.

see also

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