Are there representational shifts during category learning?

Johansen MK, Palmeri TJ
Cogn Psychol. 2002 45 (4): 482-553

PMID: 12480477 · DOI:10.1016/s0010-0285(02)00505-4

Early theories of categorization assumed that either rules, or prototypes, or exemplars were exclusively used to mentally represent categories of objects. More recently, hybrid theories of categorization have been proposed that variously combine these different forms of category representation. Our research addressed the question of whether there are representational shifts during category learning. We report a series of experiments that tracked how individual subjects generalized their acquired category knowledge to classifying new critical transfer items as a function of learning. Individual differences were observed in the generalization patterns exhibited by subjects, and those generalizations changed systematically with experience. Early in learning, subjects generalized on the basis of single diagnostic dimensions, consistent with the use of simple categorization rules. Later in learning, subjects generalized in a manner consistent with the use of similarity-based exemplar retrieval, attending to multiple stimulus dimensions. Theoretical modeling was used to formally corroborate these empirical observations by comparing fits of rule, prototype, and exemplar models to the observed categorization data. Although we provide strong evidence for shifts in the kind of information used to classify objects as a function of categorization experience, interpreting these results in terms of shifts in representational systems underlying perceptual categorization is a far thornier issue. We provide a discussion of the challenges of making claims about category representation, making reference to a wide body of literature suggesting different kinds of representational systems in perceptual categorization and related domains of human cognition.

MeSH Terms (7)

Analysis of Variance Cognition Concept Formation Generalization, Psychological Humans Models, Psychological Pattern Recognition, Visual

Connections (1)

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