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Pigeonholing is any process that attempts to classify disparate entities into a small number of categories (usually, mutually exclusive ones).
Common failings of pigeonholing schemes include:
- Categories are poorly defined (often because they are subjective).
- Entities may be suited to more than one category. Example: rhubarb is both 'poisonous' and 'edible'.
- Entities may not fit into any available category. Example: asking somebody from Washington, DC which state they live in.
- Entities may change over time, so they no longer fit the category in which they have been placed. Example: certain species of fish may change from male to female during their life.
- Attempting to discretize properties that would be better viewed as a continuum. Example: attempting to sort people into 'introverted' and 'extraverted'.
- Criteria used to categorize entities do not accurately predict the properties ascribed to those categories. Example: relying on astrological sign as a guide to someone's personality.
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