What is learned in knowledge-related categories? Evidence from typicality and feature frequency judgments

Thomas L. Spalding, Gregory Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


When a category's features are tied together by integrative knowledge, subjects learn the category faster than when the features are not directly related. What do subjects learn about the category in such circumstances? Some research has suggested that the subjects can use the knowledge itself in performing the category learning task and, thus, do not learn the details of the category's features. Two experiments investigated this hypothesis by collecting feature frequency estimates after category learning. The results showed that integrative knowledge about a category did not decrease subjects' sensitivity to feature frequency-if anything, knowledge improved it. A third experiment found that integrative knowledge did reduce sensitivity to feature frequency in typicality ratings. The results suggest that knowledge does not inhibit the learning of detailed category information, though it may replace its use in some tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-867
Number of pages12
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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