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  • Wills et al. - 2020 poly_preprint

    Rights statement: The final publication is available at Springer via https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-020-00409-6

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A dimensional summation account of polymorphous category learning

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • A.J. Wills
  • Lyn Ellet
  • Fraser Milton
  • Gareth Croft
  • Tom Beesley
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/03/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Learning and Behavior
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)66-83
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Polymorphous concepts are hard to learn, and this is perhaps surprising because they, like many natural concepts, have an overall similarity structure. However, the dimensional summation hypothesis (Milton and Wills Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 30, 407–415 2004) predicts this difficulty. It also makes a number of other predictions about polymorphous concept formation, which are tested here. In Experiment 4, we confirm the theory’s prediction that polymorphous concept formation should be facilitated by deterministic pretraining on the constituent features of the stimulus. This facilitation is relative to an equivalent amount of training on the polymorphous concept itself. In further experiments, we compare the predictions of the dimensional summation hypothesis with a more general strategic account (Experiment 2), a seriality of training account (Experiment 3), a stimulus decomposition account (also Experiment 3), and an error-based account (Experiment 4). The dimensional summation hypothesis provides the best account of these data. In Experiment 5, a further prediction is confirmed—the single feature pretraining effect is eliminated by a concurrent counting task. The current experiments suggest the hypothesis that natural concepts might be acquired by the deliberate serial summation of evidence. This idea has testable implications for classroom learning.

Bibliographic note

The final publication is available at Springer via https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-020-00409-6