Category Learning with Minimal Prior Knowledge

Audrey S. Kaplan, Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 6 experiments, the authors examined the use of prior knowledge in category learning. Previous studies of the effects of knowledge on category learning have used categories in which knowledge was related to all of the category's features. However, people's knowledge of real-world categories often consists of many "rote" features that are not related to their prior knowledge. Five experiments found that even minimal prior knowledge (1 knowledge-relevant feature and 5 rote features per exemplar) can facilitate category learning. Posttests revealed that although the knowledge aided learning, subjects also acquired the rote features that were not related to knowledge, contradicting predictions of an attentional explanation of the knowledge effect. The results of Experiment 6 suggested that subjects attempt to link even rote features to their knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-846
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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