Eyetracking and selective attention in category learning

Bob Rehder, Aaron B. Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An eyetracking version of the classic Shepard, Hovland, and Jenkins (1961) experiment was conducted. Forty years of research has assumed that category learning often involves learning to selectively attend to only those stimulus dimensions useful for classification. We confirmed that participants learned to allocate their attention optimally. We also found that learners tend to fixate all stimulus dimensions early in learning. This result obtained despite evidence that participants were also testing one-dimensional rules during this period. Finally, the restriction of eye movements to only relevant dimensions tended to occur only after errors were largely (or completely) eliminated. We interpret these findings as consistent with multiple-systems theories of learning which maximize information input in order to maximize the number of learning modules involved, and which focus solely on relevant information only after one module has solved the learning problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Categorization
  • Category learning
  • Eyetracking
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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