Varying Variation: The Effects of Within- Versus Across-Feature Differences on Relational Category Learning

Katherine A. Livins, Michael Spivey, Leonidas Doumas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Learning of feature-based categories is known to interact with feature-variation in a variety of ways, depending on the type of variation (e.g., Markman and Maddox, 2003). However, relational categories are distinct from feature-based categories in that they determine membership based on structural similarities. As a result, the way that they interact with feature variation is unclear. This paper explores both experimental and computational data and argues that, despite its reliance on structural factors, relational category-learning should
still be affected by the type of feature variation present during the learning process. It specifically suggests that within-feature and across-feature variation should produce different learning trajectories due to a difference in representational cost. The paper then uses the DORA model (Doumas et al., 2008) to discuss how this account might function in a cognitive system before presenting an experiment aimed at testing this account. The experiment was a relational category-learning task and was run on human participants and
then simulated in DORA. Both sets of results indicated that learning a relational category from a training set with a lower amount of variation is easier, but that learning from a training set with increased within-feature variation is significantly less challenging than learning from a set with increased across-feature variation.These results support the claim that, like feature-based category-learning, relational category-learning is sensitive to the
type of feature variation in the training set.
Original languageEnglish
Article number129
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • category-learning
  • relational reasoning
  • feature variation


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