Unsupervised categorization and category learning

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When people categorize a set of items in a certain way they often change their perceptions for these items so that they become more compatible with the learned categorization. In two experiments we examined whether such changes are extensive enough to change the unsupervised categorization for the items—that is, the categorization of the items that is considered more intuitive or natural without any learning. In Experiment 1 we directly employed an unsupervised categorization task; in Experiment 2 we collected similarity ratings for the items and inferred unsupervised categorizations using Pothos and Chater's (2002) model of unsupervised categorization. The unsupervised categorization for the items changed to resemble more the learned one when this was specified by the suppression of a stimulus dimension (both experiments), but less so when it was almost specified by the suppression of a stimulus dimension (Experiment 1, nonsignificant trend in Experiment 2). By contrast, no changes in the unsupervised categorization were observed when participants were taught a classification that was specified by a more fine tuning of the relative salience of the two dimensions.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02724980443000322

Affiliations: 1: University of Crete, Rethymnon, Greece 2: University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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