The perceptual effects of learning object categories that predict perceptual goals.

Van Gulick AE, Gauthier I
J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014 40 (5): 1307-20

PMID: 24820671 · PMCID: PMC4143460 · DOI:10.1037/a0036822

In classic category learning studies, subjects typically learn to assign items to 1 of 2 categories, with no further distinction between how items on each side of the category boundary should be treated. In real life, however, we often learn categories that dictate further processing goals, for instance, with objects in only 1 category requiring further individuation. Using methods from category learning and perceptual expertise, we studied the perceptual consequences of experience with objects in tasks that rely on attention to different dimensions in different parts of the space. In 2 experiments, subjects first learned to categorize complex objects from a single morphspace into 2 categories based on 1 morph dimension, and then learned to perform a different task, either naming or a local feature judgment, for each of the 2 categories. A same-different discrimination test before and after each training measured sensitivity to feature dimensions of the space. After initial categorization, sensitivity increased along the category-diagnostic dimension. After task association, sensitivity increased more for the category that was named, especially along the nondiagnostic dimension. The results demonstrate that local attentional weights, associated with individual exemplars as a function of task requirements, can have lasting effects on perceptual representations.

MeSH Terms (11)

Adult Attention Concept Formation Female Goals Humans Judgment Learning Male Neuropsychological Tests Young Adult

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