Poster B58, Sunday, March 25, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
A trade-off in category- and item-level learning: implications for development
Erika Wharton-Shukster1, Amy S. Finn1; 1University of Toronto
During the process of learning, we gather information at multiple levels of analysis. For instance, when observing an object, we learn item-level features that are unique to that object as well as patterns that stretch across multiple objects, how they are similar and different. The latter is an abstraction of our knowledge, allowing us to create categorical representations. However, it is not fully understood how these forms of learning occur in parallel. In particular, could learning specific items well impair similarity abstraction? Given that children have been shown to recall specific items better than adults in certain conditions (Sloutsky & Fisher, 2004), this question is even more pressing for understanding developmental shifts in the nature of learning. To investigate this tradeoff in adults, we used a conceptual learning task consisting of stimuli varied at the categorical and individual level. The categories were defined by distortions of two prototypical checkerboard patterns, and each item varied by color and shape unique to them. Participants learned to categorize the exemplars via response feedback. They were then given a recognition memory posttest to assess item-level learning. The conceptual learning scores showed category learning in half the sample. Using a median split, participants were grouped into Good Learners and Poor Learners. A difference in memory accuracy was found, with Poor Learners performing more accurately than Good Learners. This suggests a trade-off between learning at the category- and item-level; adults who learn the categories well also don’t recall the specific exemplars that led to this learning.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Development & aging