A computational model of context-dependent encodings during category learning

Carvalho, P. F., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).  A computational model of context-dependent encodings during category learning, Cognitive Science, 46, e13128.

Although current exemplar models of category learning are flexible and can capture how different features are emphasized for different categories, they still lack the flexibility to adapt to local changes in category learning, such as the effect of different sequences of study. In this paper, we introduce a new model of category learning, the Sequential Attention Theory Model (SAT-M), in which the encoding of each presented item is influenced not only by its category assignment (global context) as in other exemplar models, but also by how its properties relate to the properties of temporally neighboring items (local context). By fitting SAT-M to data from experiments comparing category learning with different sequences of trials (interleaved vs. blocked), we demonstrate that SAT-M captures the effect of local context and predicts when interleaved or blocked training will result in better testing performance across three different studies. Comparatively, ALCOVE, SUSTAIN, and a version of SAT-M without locally adaptive encoding provided poor fits to the results.Moreover, we evaluated the direct prediction of the model that different sequences of training change what learners encode and determined that the best-fit encoding parameter values match learners’ looking times during training.

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