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12 Examples of a Generalization

 , updated on November 21, 2023
Generalization is the formation of knowledge by identifying common properties and structures in things. This is an essential thought process that allows complex knowledge to be formulated, communicated and used. The following are illustrative examples of a generalization.

Concept

Concepts are abstractions that differ from concrete reality. These are often based on generalizations. For example, the word tree is a generalization of thousands of species of plant that have things in common such as a trunk and a lifespan that generally exceeds two years. Many words can be viewed as generalizations whereby they describe a general concept as opposed to specific things. The following chart gives a few examples of words that are generalizations.
Animal
Beautiful
City
Ocean
Person
Planet
Plant
Running
Society
Technology

Adage

Adages are generalizations that provide insight into the nature of things. These are a type of traditional saying that get passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
Curiosity killed the cat.
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Look before you leap.
Opposites attract.
Pride comes before a fall.
This too shall pass.
What you choose also chooses you.

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the process of building a generalized hypothesis or conclusion using examples that serve as evidence. For example:
The teacher was in a bad mood 7 Mondays in a row.
Today is a Monday.
Inference: the teacher might be in a bad mood.
The argument above makes a generalization about an individual's behavior. It is a reasonable argument due to the word "might" in the inference.

Proof By Example

Proof by example is a fallacy based on lazy inductive reasoning that incorrectly assumes that things that have one thing in common also have another thing in common.
Zhengzhou has poor air quality.
Zhengzhou is a city.
Inference: Cities have poor air quality.
The argument above can be considered invalid logic as it incorrectly assumes that all cities are same in all ways.

Heuristics

Heuristics are rules of thumb that allow for fast and efficient problem solving that is suboptimal but "good enough."
Any French wine that is any good has an understated label that doesn't call out for attention.
The heuristic above probably isn't very accurate but may be helpful to an individual who knows nothing about wine and needs to pick a bottle quick without lengthy research.

Stereotypes

Stereotypes are over-generalizations about people. The term implies an unfair generalization.
Foreigners in Japan speak English.
The stereotype above is based on the common assumption in Japan that people who don't appear to be Asian are foreigners who speak English. This may often be true but also creates unfair situations. For example, a black or white person who is born and raised in Japan such that they are Japanese, is constantly assumed to be foreign and incapable of speaking Japanese. Aggressively applying heuristics to people can be hurtful and unfair as people deserve to be treated as individuals.

Principles

Principles are generalized rules that are adopted by an individual, organization or society to guide their future. These can be encoded as constitutions, laws, foundational rules or guidelines.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~ First Amendment to the United States Bill of Rights

Ethics

Ethics are broad generalized moral principles that may be adopted by an individual, profession, organization or society.
I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing.
~ Hippocratic Oath, 1595 source, English translation from 1923 Loeb Classical Library.
The Hippocratic Oath was historically taken by physicians and was long considered a foundation of medical ethics.

Categories

A category such as a genre of film is a generalization that can be used to organize things and communicate their basic properties. For example, science fiction is a category of fiction and film that includes elements of future technology, social and environmental change.

Topics & Subjects

Wide areas of knowledge are grouped into subjects such as mathematics and philosophy. More specific groupings of knowledge are known as topics. For example, "American jazz musicians of the 1920s" is a topic.

Classifications

A classification is a system for labeling things according to shared properties. For example, classifying animals based on their diet with labels such as herbivore, carnivore and omnivore.

Conceptual Model

A conceptual model is a concept that has some structure to it. For example, the idea that capitalist societies are based on elements such as markets, consumers and producers.

Summary

The following are common types of generalization.

Overview

Generalizations aren't completely true but can greatly reduce the complexity of things in a pragmatic way that is helpful.
Overview: Generalization
Type
Definition
The formation of knowledge by identifying common properties and structures in things.
Related Concepts
Next: Stereotypes
More about thinking:
Abductive Reasoning
Abstract Thinking
Abstraction
Aesthetics
Analogy
Analysis Paralysis
Analytical Thinking
Anomie
Argument
Argument From Silence
Arrow Of Time
Assertions
Automaticity
Backward Induction
Base Rate Fallacy
Benefit Of Doubt
Big Picture
Brainstorming
Call To Action
Catch 22
Causality
Choice Architecture
Circular Reasoning
Cognition
Cognitive Abilities
Cognitive Biases
Cold Logic
Collective Intelligence
Complexity Bias
Concept
Consciousness
Constructive Criticism
Convergent Thinking
Counterfactual Thinking
Creative Tension
Creeping Normality
Critical Thinking
Culture
Curse Of Knowledge
Decision Fatigue
Decision Framing
Decision Making
Defensive Pessimism
Design Thinking
Divergent Thinking
Educated Guess
Emotional Intelligence
Epic Meaning
Essential Complexity
Excluded Middle
Failure Of Imagination
Fallacies
Fallacy Fallacy
False Analogy
False Balance
False Dichotomy
False Equivalence
First Principles
Formal Logic
Four Causes
Fuzzy Logic
Gambler's Fallacy
Generalization
Golden Hammer
Good Judgement
Grey Area
Groupthink
Heuristics
Hindsight Bias
Hope
Idealism
Ideas
If-By-Whiskey
Illogical Success
Imagination
Independent Thinking
Inductive Reasoning
Inference
Influencing
Informal Logic
Information
Information Cascade
Introspection
Intuition
Inventive Step
Learning
Lifestyle
Logic
Logical Argument
Logical Thinking
Ludic Fallacy
Magical Thinking
Meaning
Mental Experiences
Mental State
Mindset
Misuse of Statistics
Motivated Reasoning
Natural Language
Nirvana Fallacy
Norms
Not Even Wrong
Objective Reason
Objectivity
Opinion
Overthinking
Perception
Personal Values
Perspective
Positive Thinking
Practical Thinking
Pragmatism
Premise
Problem Solving
Proof By Example
Propositional Logic
Prosecutor's Fallacy
Radical Chic
Rational Thought
Realism
Reality
Reason
Reasoning
Red Herring
Reflective Thinking
Reification
Relativism
Salience
Scarcity Mindset
Scientism
Selective Attention
Serendipity
Situational Awareness
Sour Grapes
State Of Mind
Storytelling
Subjectivity
Systems Thinking
Thinking
Thought Experiment
Unknown Unknowns
Visual Thinking
Want To Believe
Whataboutism
Win-Win Thinking
Wishful Thinking
Worldview
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References

Wecheli, Andreae (1595). "Hippocrates. Τα ενρισκομενα Opera omnia". Frankfurt: National Institute of Health; National Library of Medicine; History of Medicine Division).
Hippocrates of Cos (1923). "The Oath". Loeb Classical Library. 147: 298–299.

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