Categorization is an essential cognitive skill that allows people to understand the world around them. Although this ability is often considered fundamental, category learning can actually be influenced by the specific demands of a given experimental task. Prior work suggests that changes to a category task usually influence participants’ learning in one of two ways: by altering the demands on cognitive resources like working memory or by changing the strategies that people select. However, not all task demand manipulations can be understood using this paradigm. Previous work suggests that altering the type of initial cue presentation influences the speed with which individuals acquire category information but does not interact with working memory or strategy usage. In the present study we were interested in discovering the mechanisms by which cue presentation influences category learning; specifically, we hypothesized that cue type impacts the efficiency of gaze patterns. To evaluate this paradigm, individuals were given nonsense words (i.e. letter strings that phonetically resemble words but have no accepted semantic association) and three novel category labels and told to inductively learn the categorization rules. Participants were presented with a novel transfer task to measure how well they could transfer their acquired rule knowledge to a new context. Consistent with our hypotheses, preliminary findings suggest that cue-type did influence gaze patterns and subsequent category transfer; individuals in the exemplar-cue condition fixated more often on stimuli in the cue position, while individuals in the category-cue condition fixated more often on stimuli in the answers position.
Dr. Christopher Was
Mr. Sean Sabihi
Previous work regarding categorization suggests presenting contrasting exemplars simultaneously can impact ways that individuals represent information during tasks. However, research examining mechanisms by which contrast comparison influences categorization is inconclusive. This study contained two goals which were whether relationships between working memory, strategy, and variational exemplar comparison (i.e. presenting a novel category name and asking participants to choose from three exemplars or presenting an exemplar word and asking participants to choose from three category names) are similar for semantic and perceptual category learning tasks. The second goal used eye-tracking to investigate if differences due to variations in contrasting exemplar comparison could be explained through perceptual mechanisms. Results indicated that exemplar presentation variation does impact ways in which participants represent knowledge about categories and exemplars.