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27-10-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2020

Psychological Research 4/2020

The impact of training methodology and category structure on the formation of new categories from existing knowledge

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2020
Sébastien Hélie, Farzin Shamloo, Shawn W. Ell


Categorization decisions are made thousands of times every day, and a typical adult knows tens of thousands of categories. It is thus relatively rare that adults learn new categories without somehow reorganizing pre-existing knowledge. Yet, most perceptual categorization research has investigated the ability to learn new categories without considering they relation to existing knowledge. In this article, we test the ability of young adults to merge already known categories into new categories as a function of training methodology and category structures using two experiments. Experiment 1 tests participants’ ability to merge rule-based or information-integration categories that are either contiguous, semi-contiguous, or non-contiguous in perceptual space using a classification paradigm. Experiment 2 is similar Experiment 1 but uses a YES/NO learning paradigm instead. The results of both experiments suggest a strong effect of the contiguity of the merged categories in perceptual space that depends on the type of category representation that is learned. The type of category representation that is learned, in turn, depends on a complex interaction of the category structures and training task. We conclude by discussing the relevance of these results for categorization outside the laboratory.

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