Auditory category learning is robust across training regimes

Cognition. 2023 Aug:237:105467. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105467. Epub 2023 May 4.


Multiple lines of research have developed training approaches that foster category learning, with important translational implications for education. Increasing exemplar variability, blocking or interleaving by category-relevant dimension, and providing explicit instructions about diagnostic dimensions each have been shown to facilitate category learning and/or generalization. However, laboratory research often must distill the character of natural input regularities that define real-world categories. As a result, much of what we know about category learning has come from studies with simplifying assumptions. We challenge the implicit expectation that these studies reflect the process of category learning of real-world input by creating an auditory category learning paradigm that intentionally violates some common simplifying assumptions of category learning tasks. Across five experiments and nearly 300 adult participants, we used training regimes previously shown to facilitate category learning, but here drew from a more complex and multidimensional category space with tens of thousands of unique exemplars. Learning was equivalently robust across training regimes that changed exemplar variability, altered the blocking of category exemplars, or provided explicit instructions of the category-diagnostic dimension. Each drove essentially equivalent accuracy measures of learning generalization following 40 min of training. These findings suggest that auditory category learning across complex input is not as susceptible to training regime manipulation as previously thought.

Keywords: Auditory category learning; Categorization; Category learning; Generalization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Concept Formation
  • Generalization, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Learning*