Information-integration category learning and the human uncertainty response

Mem Cognit. 2011 Apr;39(3):536-54. doi: 10.3758/s13421-010-0041-4.


The human response to uncertainty has been well studied in tasks requiring attention and declarative memory systems. However, uncertainty monitoring and control have not been studied in multi-dimensional, information-integration categorization tasks that rely on non-declarative procedural memory. Three experiments are described that investigated the human uncertainty response in such tasks. Experiment 1 showed that following standard categorization training, uncertainty responding was similar in information-integration tasks and rule-based tasks requiring declarative memory. In Experiment 2, however, uncertainty responding in untrained information-integration tasks impaired the ability of many participants to master those tasks. Finally, Experiment 3 showed that the deficit observed in Experiment 2 was not because of the uncertainty response option per se, but rather because the uncertainty response provided participants a mechanism via which to eliminate stimuli that were inconsistent with a simple declarative response strategy. These results are considered in the light of recent models of category learning and metacognition.

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning
  • Attention*
  • Concept Formation
  • Contrast Sensitivity
  • Decision Making
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychophysics
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Size Perception*
  • Uncertainty*