Feedback can be superior to observational training for both rule-based and information-integration category structures
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The effects of two different types of training on rule-based and information-integration category learning were investigated in two experiments. In observational training, a category label is presented, followed by an example of that category and the participant's response. In feedback training, the stimulus is presented, the participant assigns it to a category and then receives feedback about the accuracy of that decision. Ashby, Maddox, and Bohil (2002) reported that feedback training was superior to observational training when learning information-integration category structures, but that training type had little effect on the acquisition of rule-based category structures. These results were argued to support the COVIS dual-process account of category learning. However, a number of non-essential differences between their rule-based and information-integration conditions complicate interpretation of these findings. Experiment 1 controlled, between category structures, for participant error rates, category separation, and the number of stimulus dimensions relevant to the categorization. Under these more controlled conditions, rule-based and information-integration category structures both benefitted from feedback training to a similar degree. Experiment 2 maintained this difference in training type when learning a rule-based category that had otherwise been matched, in terms of category overlap and overall performance, with the rule-based categories used in Ashby et al. These results indicate that differences in dimensionality between the category structures in Ashby et al. is a more likely explanation for the interaction between training type and category structure than the dual-system explanation they offered.
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