An investigation into the formation of representational associations in visual category learning

Jentink, Kade Garrett, author
Seger, Carol, advisor
Rojas, Don, committee member
Burzynska, Agnieszka, committee member
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Category learning allows us to use previous information we have accumulated, and extend it to new situations. Multiple systems are proposed to underlie learning, including: an explicit, rule-based system, and an implicit, procedural system. Information integration tasks are thought to load heavily onto the latter. In these tasks, a high degree of accuracy is reached only if participants can integrate incommensurable dimensions, often without being able to verbally describe how they are categorizing each stimulus. Learning in this type of task is thought to occur as participants associate a given stimulus with a category label, and then that label to a motor response. The present study sought to examine whether there may be an additional associative stage in which a stimulus is first associated with a "category representation" – a representation of the critical characteristics of a given category – which is then associated with a category label. Two experiments were conducted which attempted to determine whether this form of category representation is learned in information integration tasks. Both experiments reversed the category representation – category label association for a subset of stimuli and tested if subjects would transfer this reversal to the remaining stimuli, as should happen if they learned to associate each label with a single abstract category representation. Experiment 1 trained subjects with two sets of labels, each of which was associated with the same abstract category representation, to see if reversing one set of labels would alter the other. Experiment 2 trained subjects with 1 set of labels and tested if learning to reverse half of the stimulus space would transfer to the remaining half. In addition, the consistency of category label and motor response associations were manipulated in Experiment 2, with the hypothesis that subjects learning under inconsistent mappings would be forced to learn category labels and be more likely form an abstract category representation, whereas subjects learning under consistent conditions might only learn basic stimulus – response associations. Subjects in Experiment 1 did not transfer the reversal to the second set of category labels, inconsistent with the hypothesis that subjects would form an abstract category representation. However, over half the subjects in Experiment 2 did transfer reversed category label associations to untrained stimuli. Furthermore, a greater number of subjects transferred the reversals in the Inconsistent mapping condition. This is the first study to present evidence suggesting the existence of an abstract category representation and to provide a unique dissociation between consistent and inconsistent mappings for an information-integration task.
2017 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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cognitive psychology
category learning
information integration
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