Prior knowledge and exemplar frequency

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Harlan D. Harris.

Additional information

This work was supported by NIMH Grant MH41704 to G.L.M. and NIH NRSA Grant F32MH076452 to H.D.H.

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Harris, H.D., Murphy, G.L. & Rehder, B. Prior knowledge and exemplar frequency. Memory & Cognition 36, 1335–1350 (2008). https://doi.org/10.3758/MC.36.7.1335

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Keywords

  • Prior Knowledge
  • Input Node
  • Category Learning
  • Knowledge Condition
  • Response Preference