Two pathways to stimulus encoding in category learning?

Tyler Davis, Bradley C. Love, W. Todd Maddox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Category learning theorists tacitly assume that stimuli are encoded by a single pathway. Motivated by theories of object recognition, we evaluated a dual-pathway account of stimulus encoding. The part-based pathway establishes mappings between sensory input and symbols that encode discrete stimulus features, whereas the image-based pathway applies holistic templates to sensory input. Our experiments used rule-plus-exception structures, in which one exception item in each category violates a salient regularity and must be distinguished from other items. In Experiment 1, we found discrete representations to be crucial for recognition of exceptions following brief training. Experiments 2 and 3 involved multisession training regimens designed to encourage either part- or image-based encoding. We found that both pathways are able to support exception encoding, but have unique characteristics. We speculate that one advantage of the part-based pathway is the ability to generalize across domains, whereas the image-based pathway provides faster and more effortless recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-413
Number of pages20
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2009


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