Memory & Cognition

, Volume 36, Issue 7, pp 1335–1350 | Cite as

Prior knowledge and exemplar frequency

  • Harlan D. HarrisEmail author
  • Gregory L. Murphy
  • Bob Rehder


New concepts can be learned by statistical associations, as well as by relevant existing knowledge. We examined the interaction of these two processes by manipulating exemplar frequency and thematic knowledge and considering their interaction through computational modeling. Exemplar frequency affects category learning, with high-frequency items learned more quickly than low-frequency items, and prior knowledge usually speeds category learning. In two experiments in which both of these factors were manipulated, we found that the effects of frequency are greatly reduced when stimulus features are linked by thematic prior knowledge and that frequency effects on single stimulus features can actually be reversed by knowledge. We account for these results with the knowledge resonance model of category learning (Rehder & Murphy, 2003) and conclude that prior knowledge may change representations so that empirical effects, such as those caused by frequency manipulations, are modulated.


Prior Knowledge Input Node Category Learning Knowledge Condition Response Preference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harlan D. Harris
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gregory L. Murphy
    • 1
  • Bob Rehder
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityNew York

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