Prior knowledge enhances the category dimensionality effect

Aaron B. Hoffman, Harlan D. Harris, Gregory L. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A study of the combined influence of prior knowledge and stimulus dimensionality on category learning was conducted. Subjects learned category structures with the same number of necessary dimensions but with more or fewer additional, redundant dimensions and with either knowledge-related or knowledge-unrelated features. Minimal-learning models predict that all subjects, regardless of condition, either should learn the same number of dimensions or should respond more slowly to each dimension. Despite similar learning rates and response times, subjects learned more features in the high-dimensional than in the low-dimensional condition. Furthermore, prior knowledge interacted with dimensionality, increasing what was learned, especially in the high-dimensional case. A second experiment confirmed that the participants did, in fact, learn more features during the training phase, rather than simply inferring them at test. These effects can be explained by direct associations among features (representing prior knowledge), combined with feedback between features and the category label, as was shown by simulations of the knowledge resonance, or KRES, model of category learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-270
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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