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Generalization in Human Category Learning: A Connectionist Account of Differences in Gradient after Discriminative and Non discriminative Training

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Two experiments are reported that investigate the difference in gradient of generalization observed between one-category (non-discriminative) and two-category (discriminative) training. Extrapolating from the results of a number of animal learning studies, it was predicted that the gradient should be steeper under discriminative training. The first experiment confirms this basic prediction for the stimuli used, which were novel, prototype-structured, and constructed from 12 symbols positioned on a grid. An explanation for the effect, based on the Rescorla-Wagner theory of Pavlovian conditioning (Rescorla & Wagner, 1972), is that under non-discriminative training "incidental stimuli" have significant control over responding,whereas under discriminative training they do not. Incidental stimuli are those aspects of the stimulus, or the surrounding context, that are not differentially reinforced under discriminative training. This explanation leads to the prediction that a comparable effect of blocked versus intermixed discriminative training should also be found. This prediction is disconfirmed by the second experiment. An alternative model, still based on the RescorlaWagner theory but with the addition of a decision mechanism comprising a threshold unit and a competitive network system, is proposed, and its ability to predict both the choice probabilities and the pattern of response times found is evaluated via simulation.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/027249897392044

Publication date: August 1, 1997

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