Taxonomies, knowledge and artifacts; interactivity in category learning

  • Author / Creator
    Hoff, Michael
  • Many adult concepts can be represented in taxonomies – hierarchical systems in which concepts are differentiated into varying levels of abstraction (e.g., musical instrument, wind instrument, flute) related by class inclusion (a flute is a wind instrument and a wind instrument is a musical instrument). Indeed, most natural kinds (e.g., whale, tree) and artifacts (e.g., flute, truck) are generally believed to fall within taxonomies. Moreover, in real world contexts, concepts are probably rarely learned as explicitly contrasting sets existing completely outside of known taxonomies (that is, one might not learn cats vs. dogs without also learning that both are types of animals, and that both include more specific subcategories). Surprisingly, relatively little research has been done on the learning of categories that are hierarchically structured. The present study began an investigation into how adults learned new concepts that are hierarchically structured. In Experiment 1, participants learned to classify items at one taxonomic level then at a later time classified items at either the same or a different level. The results suggested that people were unable to clearly detect the relationship among alternate levels of the hierarchy prior to exposure of those levels. However, results in Experiment 1 also suggested that learning multiple categories might lead to deeper understanding of how features transfer or generalize to higher taxonomic levels. The remaining experiments addressed more explicitly the influence of hierarchical structures on category learning by including prototype and control items, along with artificial and knowledge-based category labels. Results from these experiments indicated that, at least within the parameters of this study, prior experience cued by knowledge-based category labels interacted adversely with abstract materials and interfered with mapping of item information to categories. Moreover, when the relationship between categories and item information is unclear, generalization might be one important means by which people categorize.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Spalding, Thomas (Psychology)
    • Gagne, Christina (Psychology)
    • Dixon, Peter (Psychology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Scott, Allen (Psychology) University of Lethbridge
    • Bolger, Patrick (Linguistics)