The Art of Classification: Naming the Known


Whether it’s planets named after Greek Gods, pool cue types, or breeds of dogs, humans have a natural inclination to classify and label the world around them. This process of classification helps us make sense of the vast array of information we encounter daily.

In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind our need to classify things, the various methods we employ, the role our sensory organs play in shaping our classifications, and the potential for reevaluating our personal classifications.

Why Humans Love To Classify

The human brain is constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of sensory input. To process and make sense of this information, our brains have developed a natural tendency to categorize and organize the data based on shared attributes or characteristics. By creating categories, we can efficiently store and recall information, allowing us to navigate our environment more effectively.

This need for classification is rooted in our evolutionary history. Early humans who were better able to recognize patterns and categorize their surroundings were more likely to survive and reproduce, passing on their classification abilities to future generations.

Moreover, classification serves as a foundation for communication and shared understanding. By establishing common categories, we can communicate complex ideas and experiences with others more effectively.

Types of General Classifications

There are numerous ways in which humans classify the world around them. Some common types of classification systems include:

  1. Taxonomies: Hierarchical systems that organize items into nested categories based on shared characteristics. Examples include the biological classification of organisms (domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) and the Dewey Decimal System for library books.
  2. Typologies: Systems that classify items based on distinct types or categories, without any inherent hierarchy. Examples include personality types, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the aforementioned pool cue types.
  3. Nomenclatures: Systems that assign names or labels to items within a specific domain. Examples include the naming of chemical compounds, newly discovered celestial objects, or even the names of hurricanes.
  4. Scales: Systems that classify items based on a continuous range or spectrum, such as temperature scales, color spectrums, or the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

These classification systems can be based on various criteria, such as physical properties, functions, cultural significance, or historical relationships.

What About Sensory Bias?

Our sensory organs play a crucial role in shaping the classifications we create. Humans primarily rely on vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell to gather information about the world. Consequently, our classifications tend to focus on attributes that are easily perceived by these senses.

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For example, when classifying animals, we often focus on traits like size, shape, color, and sound, as these are readily discernible through our senses. This sensory bias can sometimes lead to oversimplification or misclassification, as we may overlook less obvious but equally important characteristics.

Furthermore, our cultural background and personal experiences can also influence the way we classify things. Two people from different cultures may classify the same object differently based on their unique perspectives and experiences.

Retail Classifications: Organizing the World of Commerce

In the realm of retail, classification plays a critical role in organizing and presenting products to consumers, ensuring a seamless shopping experience. Retailers use various classification systems to categorize their inventory, making it easier for customers to locate desired items and discover new products. In this section, we will explore the different types of retail classifications and their impact on the shopping experience.

Types of Retail Classifications

  1. Product Categories: Retailers often group products into categories based on their type, function, or intended use. Common examples include clothing, electronics, groceries, and home goods. Within each category, subcategories can further refine the classification, such as clothing being divided into men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, or electronics being split into smartphones, laptops, and televisions.
  2. Brands: Many retailers organize their inventory by brand, enabling customers who prefer specific brands to easily locate their products. This type of classification is particularly prevalent in fashion and electronics, where brand loyalty can be a significant factor in purchasing decisions.
  3. Price Range: Some retailers classify products based on price, offering separate sections for budget, mid-range, and premium items. This approach caters to consumers with different spending capacities and helps them find products that align with their budgets.
  4. Thematic Displays: Retailers may also classify products based on themes, such as seasonal items, holiday specials, or trending products. Thematic displays often showcase a curated selection of products from various categories and brands, providing customers with a convenient and engaging shopping experience.

The Impact of Retail Classifications on Shopping Experience

Retail classifications serve several essential functions in the world of commerce:

  • Navigation: By organizing products into intuitive categories, retailers make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for and discover new items that may pique their interest. Well-designed classification systems enable customers to quickly locate specific products, reducing frustration and increasing the likelihood of a purchase.
  • Comparison: Classifying products by brand or price range facilitates comparison shopping, allowing customers to evaluate different options and make informed purchasing decisions. By presenting similar products side by side, retailers help customers assess features, quality, and value more effectively.
  • Personalization: Retailers can use classification systems to tailor their offerings to specific customer segments or preferences. For example, a store could create a dedicated section for eco-friendly products or locally sourced goods, catering to customers with particular values or interests.
  • Marketing: Retail classifications can also serve as a marketing tool, showcasing featured products, promotions, or new arrivals. Thematic displays, for example, can create a sense of excitement and urgency, encouraging customers to explore and make impulse purchases.
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Retail classifications play a vital role in shaping the shopping experience, guiding customers through the vast array of products and helping them make informed purchasing decisions. By employing various classification systems, such as product categories, brands, price ranges, and thematic displays, retailers can cater to diverse customer needs and preferences, ultimately driving sales and customer satisfaction.

Reevaluating Our Classifications, Societally

As our understanding of the world evolves, so too must our classification systems. Scientific discoveries, technological advancements, and cultural shifts can all prompt us to reconsider and revise our classifications.

For example, the discovery of Pluto in 1930 led to its classification as the ninth planet in our solar system. However, as our understanding of celestial objects grew, astronomers reclassified Pluto as a “dwarf planet” in 2006, reflecting its unique properties and relationship to other objects in the solar system.

Reevaluating our personal classifications can also be a valuable exercise. As we grow and learn, our perspectives and priorities may change, requiring us to reassess the categories and labels we apply to ourselves and others. This process of reclassification can help us break free from limiting beliefs, foster empathy and understanding, and promote personal growth.


From pool cue types to planetary nomenclature, the human propensity for classification is deeply ingrained in our cognitive processes and evolutionary history. By categorizing and labeling the world around us, we can better process information, communicate with others, and navigate our environment.

Our sensory organs and personal experiences heavily influence the classifications we create, sometimes leading to biases or oversimplifications. Consequently, it is essential to remain open to revising our classification systems as our understanding of the world expands and evolves. By regularly reevaluating our personal classifications, we can foster personal growth and cultivate a deeper understanding of the diverse world in which we live.


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