Blocking in Category Learning

Lewis Bott, Aaron B. Hoffman, Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many theories of category learning assume that learning is driven by a need to minimize classification error. When there is no classification error, therefore, learning of individual features should be negligible. The authors tested this hypothesis by conducting three category-learning experiments adapted from an associative learning blocking paradigm. Contrary to an error-driven account of learning, participants learned a wide range of information when they learned about categories, and blocking effects were difficult to obtain. Conversely, when participants learned to predict an outcome in a task with the same formal structure and materials, blocking effects were robust and followed the predictions of error-driven learning. The authors discuss their findings in relation to models of category learning and the usefulness of category knowledge in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-699
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • blocking
  • categorization
  • category learning
  • error-driven learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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