Development of features in object concepts.

Schyns, P. G., Goldstone, R. L., & Thibaut, J-P (1998). Development of features in object concepts.  Behavioral and Brain Sciences21, 1-54.

According to an influential approach to cognition, our perceptual systems provide us with a repertoire of fixed features as input to higher-level cognitive processes. We present a theory of category learning and representation in which features, instead of being components of a fixed repertoire, are created under the influence of higher-level cognitive processes. When new categories need to be learned, fixed features face one of two problems: (1) High-level features that are directly useful for categorization may not be flexible enough to represent all relevant objects. (2) Low-level features consisting of unstructured fragments (such as pixels) may not capture the regularities required for successful categorization. We report evidence that feature creation occurs in category learning and we describe the conditions that promote it. Feature creation can adapt flexibly to changing environmental demands and may be the origin of fixed feature repertoires. Implications for object categorization, conceptual development, chunking, constructive induction and formal models of dimensionality reduction are discussed.

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