How category learning affects object representations: not all morphspaces stretch alike.

Folstein JR, Gauthier I, Palmeri TJ
J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2012 38 (4): 807-20

PMID: 22746950 · PMCID: PMC3390763 · DOI:10.1037/a0025836

How does learning to categorize objects affect how people visually perceive them? Behavioral, neurophysiological, and neuroimaging studies have tested the degree to which category learning influences object representations, with conflicting results. Some studies have found that objects become more visually discriminable along dimensions relevant to previously learned categories, while others have found no such effect. One critical factor we explore here lies in the structure of the morphspaces used in different studies. Studies finding no increase in discriminability often use blended morphspaces, with morphparents lying at corners of the space. By contrast, studies finding increases in discriminability use factorial morphspaces, defined by separate morphlines forming axes of the space. Using the same 4 morphparents, we created both factorial and blended morphspaces matched in pairwise discriminability. Category learning caused a selective increase in discriminability along the relevant dimension of the factorial space, but not in the blended space, and led to the creation of functional dimensions in the factorial space, but not in the blended space. These findings demonstrate that not all morphspaces stretch alike: Only some morphspaces support enhanced discriminability to relevant object dimensions following category learning. Our results have important implications for interpreting neuroimaging studies reporting little or no effect of category learning on object representations in the visual system: Those studies may have been limited by their use of blended morphspaces.

2012 APA, all rights reserved

MeSH Terms (12)

Adult Discrimination, Psychological Female Humans Learning Male Pattern Recognition, Visual Photic Stimulation Pilot Projects Psychomotor Performance Reaction Time Visual Perception

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