Psychological Research

, Volume 82, Issue 2, pp 371–384 | Cite as

Trial-by-trial switching between procedural and declarative categorization systems

  • Matthew J. Crossley
  • Jessica L. Roeder
  • Sebastien Helie
  • F. Gregory Ashby
Original Article


Considerable evidence suggests that human category learning recruits multiple memory systems. A popular assumption is that procedural memory is used to form stimulus-to-response mappings, whereas declarative memory is used to form and test explicit rules about category membership. The multiple systems framework has been successful in motivating and accounting for a broad array of empirical observations over the past 20 years. Even so, only a couple of studies have examined how the different categorization systems interact. Both previous studies suggest that switching between explicit and procedural responding is extremely difficult. But they leave unanswered the critical questions of whether trial-by-trial system switching is possible, and if so, whether it is qualitatively different than trial-by-trial switching between two explicit tasks. The experiment described in this article addressed these questions. The results (1) confirm that effective trial-by-trial system switching, although difficult, is possible; (2) suggest that switching between tasks mediated by different memory systems is more difficult than switching between two declarative memory tasks; and (3) point to a serious shortcoming of current category-learning theories.


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


The research described in this article was supported in part by Grant Number 2R01MH063760 from NIMH and by AFOSR Grant FA9550-12-1-0355.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Crossley
    • 1
  • Jessica L. Roeder
    • 2
  • Sebastien Helie
    • 3
  • F. Gregory Ashby
    • 2
  1. 1.SRI InternationalMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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