Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Continuous Executive Function Disruption Interferes with Application of an Information Integration Categorization Strategy

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Continuous Executive Function Disruption Interferes with Application of an Information Integration Categorization Strategy

Article excerpt

Published online: 10 April 2014

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Category learning is often characterized as being supported by two separate learning systems. A verbal system learns rule-defined (RD) categories that can be described using a verbal rule and relies on executive functions (EFs) to learn via hypothesis testing. A nonverbal system learns non-rule-defined (NRD) categories that cannot be described by a verbal rule and uses automatic, procedural learning. The verbal system is dominant in that adults tend to use it during initial learning but may switch to the nonverbal system when the verbal system is unsuccessful. The nonverbal system has traditionally been thought to operate independently of EFs, but recent studies suggest that EFs may play a role in the nonverbal system-specifically, to facilitate the transition away from the verbal system. Accordingly, continuously interfering with EFs during the categorization process, so that EFs are never fully available to facilitate the transition, may be more detrimental to the nonverbal system than is temporary EF interference. Participants learned an NRD or an RD category while EFs were untaxed, taxed temporarily, or taxed continuously. When EFs were continuously taxed during NRD categorization, participants were less likely to use a nonverbal categorization strategy than when EFs were temporarily taxed, suggesting that when EFs were unavailable, the transition to the nonverbal system was hindered. For the verbal system, temporary and continuous interference had similar effects on categorization performance and on strategy use, illustrating that EFs play an important but different role in each of the category-learning systems.

Keywords Categorization . Attention and executive control . Attention in learning

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Making sense of the environment is a major computational challenge faced by all living organisms. Categorization offers one mechanism for decreasing the computational load by treating novel objects according to past experience with sim- ilar category members, rather than as objects for which little is known. Given that categorization is an essential cognitive capacity, and given the diversity in objects that must be categorized, it is adaptive to have multiple cognitive systems to carry out this complex task. Although there is some dis- agreement (e.g., Newell, Dunn, & Kalish, 2011), a body of research on the cognitive processes used during category learning has provided some evidence that there are at least two separate category-learning systems (Ashby & Maddox, 2005; Ashby & O'Brien, 2005; Ashby & Valentin, 2005; Minda & Miles, 2010; Nomura & Reber 2008). In the follow- ing article, we build on the assumption that there are multiple category-learning systems in order to investigate the interac- tion between these systems.

A verbal category-learning system is used to place objects into categories for which there is a verbal rule (i.e., rule- defined, or RD, categories). For example, brass instruments may be placed into the brass category because they produce sound through lip vibration. A person learning to differentiate between brass and other types of instruments would need to learn which dimension to base the categorization rule upon. He or she may begin by placing all instruments with buttons into the category but receive feedback that some buttoned instruments do not belong to the category (e.g., clarinets) and other nonbuttoned instruments do (e.g., the trombone). Next, he or she may test the rule that all instruments made of brass go in the category but receive feedback that some brass instruments do not (e.g., the saxophone) and other nonbrass instruments do (e.g., some brass instruments are made of nickel silver). Finally, he or she may notice that all instruments that have fallen into the brass category are played using lip vibrations.

This process of learning to categorize instruments using the verbal system relies on hypothesis testing: The learner gener- ates a plausible rule, attends to the relevant dimension(s) and ignores the irrelevant dimensions, processes feedback, gener- ates a new rule that has not already been tested, switches attention to a new relevant dimension, and ignores informa- tion from dimension(s) that have been previously tested but proven irrelevant. …

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