The Simple Advantage in Perceptual and Categorical Generalization

Thai, K-P., Son, J. Y., & Goldstone, R. L. (2016).  The Simple Advantage in Perceptual and Categorical Generalization.  Memory & Cognition, 44, 292-306.

Recent research in relational learning has suggested that simple training instances may lead to better generalization than complex training instances. We examined the perceptual  encoding mechanisms that might undergird this Simple advantage by testing category and perceptual learning in adults with simplified and traditional (more complex) Chinese scripts. In Experiment 1, participants learned Chinese characters and their English translations, performed a memorization test, and generalized their learning to the corresponding characters written in the other script. In Experiment 2, we removed the training phase and modified the tests to examine transfer based purely on the perceptual similarities between simplified and traditional characters. We found the simple advantage in both experiments. Training with simplified characters produced better generalization than training with traditional characters when generalization relied on either recognition memory or pure perceptual similarities. On the basis of the results of these two experiments,we propose a simple processmodel to explain the perceptual mechanism that might drive this simple advantage, and in Experiment 3 we tested novel predictions of this model by examining the effect of exposure duration on the simple advantage. We found support for our model that the simple advantage is driven primarily by differences in the perceptual encoding of the information available from simple and complex instances. These findings advance our understanding of how the perceptual features of a learning opportunity interact with domain-general mechanisms to prepare learners for transfer.

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The Cognitive Costs of Context: The Effects of Concreteness and Immersiveness in Instructional Examples

Day, S. B., Motz, B. A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  The Cognitive Costs of Context: The Effects of Concreteness and Immersiveness in Instructional Examples.  Frontiers in Psychology, 6:1876.

Prior research has established that while the use of concrete, familiar examples can provide many important benefits for learning, it is also associated with some serious disadvantages, particularly in learners’ ability to recognize and transfer their knowledge to new analogous situations. However, it is not immediately clear whether this pattern would hold in real world educational contexts, in which the role of such examples in student engagement and ease of processing might be of enough importance to overshadow any potential negative impact. We conducted two experiments in which curriculum-relevant material was presented in natural classroom environments, first with college undergraduates and then with middle-school students. All students in each study received the same relevant content, but the degree of contextualization in these materials was varied between students. In both studies, we found that greater contextualization was associated with poorer transfer performance. We interpret these results as reflecting a greater degree of embeddedness for the knowledge acquired from richer, more concrete materials, such that the underlying principles are represented in a less abstract and generalizable form.

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Effects of variation and prior knowledge on abstract concept learning

Braithwaite, D. W., & Goldstone, R. L., (2015). Effects of variation and prior knowledge on abstract concept learning. Cognition and Instruction, 33, 226-256.

Learning abstract concepts through concrete examples may promote learning at the cost of inhibiting transfer. The present study investigated one approach to solving this problem: systematically varying superficial features of the examples. Participants learned to solve problems involving a mathematical concept by studying either superficially similar or varied examples. In Experiment 1, less knowledgeable participants learned better from similar examples,while more knowledgeable participants learned better from varied examples. In Experiment 2, prior to learning how to solve the problems, some participants received a pretraining aimed at increasing attention to the structural relations underlying the target concept. These participants, like the more knowledgeable participants in Experiment 1, learned better from varied examples. Thus, the utility of varied examples depends on prior knowledge and, in particular, ability to attend to relevant structure. Increasing this ability can prepare learners to learn more effectively from varied examples.

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Integration of social information by human groups

Granovskiy, B., Gold, J. M., Sumpter, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). Integration of social information by human groups. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7, 469-493.

We consider a situation in which individuals search for accurate decisions without direct feedback on¬†their accuracy, but with information about the decisions made by peers in their group. The ‚Äúwisdom of¬†crowds‚ÄĚ hypothesis states that the average judgment of many individuals can give a good estimate of, for¬†example, the outcomes of sporting events and the answers to trivia questions. Two conditions for the¬†application of wisdom of crowds are that estimates should be independent and unbiased. Here, we study¬†how individuals integrate social information when answering trivia questions with answers that range¬†between 0% and 100% (e.g., ‚ÄúWhat percentage of Americans are left-handed?‚ÄĚ). We find that, consistent¬†with the wisdom of crowds hypothesis, average performance improves with group size. However, individuals¬†show a consistent bias to produce estimates that are insufficiently extreme. We find that social¬†information provides significant, albeit small, improvement to group performance. Outliers with answers¬†far from the correct answer move toward the position of the group mean. Given that these outliers also¬†tend to be nearer to 50% than do the answers of other group members, this move creates group polarization¬†away from 50%. By looking at individual performance over different questions we find that some¬†people are more likely to be affected by social influence than others. There is also evidence that people¬†differ in their competence in answering questions, but lack of competence is not significantly correlated¬†with willingness to change guesses. We develop a mathematical model based on these results that postulates¬†a cognitive process in which people first decide whether to take into account peer guesses, and if so,¬†to move in the direction of these guesses. The size of the move is proportional to the distance between¬†their own guess and the average guess of the group. This model closely approximates the distribution of¬†guess movements and shows how outlying incorrect opinions can be systematically removed from a¬†group resulting, in some situations, in improved group performance. However, improvement is only predicted¬†for cases in which the initial guesses of individuals in the group are biased.

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Effectiveness of learner-regulated study sequence: An in-vivo study in introductory psychology courses

Cavalho, P. F., Braithwaite, D. W., de Leeuw, J. R., Motz, B. A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Effectiveness of learner-regulated study sequence: An in-vivo study in introductory psychology courses.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 309-314).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

Study sequence can have a profound impact on learning. Previous research has often shown advantages for interleaved over blocked study, though the reverse has also been found. Learners typically prefer blocking even in situations for which interleaving is superior. The present study investigated learner regulation of study sequence, and its effects on learning in an ecologically valid context ‚Äď university students using an online tutorial relevant to an exam that counted toward their course grades. The majority of participants blocked study by problem category, and this tendency was positively associated with subsequent exam performance. The results suggest that preference for blocked study may be adaptive under some circumstances, and highlight the importance of identifying task environments under which different study sequences are most effective.

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Can you repeat that? The effect of item repetition on interleaved and blocked study

Kost, A., Cavalho, P. F., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Can you repeat that? The effect of item repetition on interleaved and blocked study.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1189-1194).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

Three experiments explore differences between blocked and interleaved study with and without item repetition. In the first experiment we find that when items are repeated during study, blocked study results in higher test performance than interleaved study. In the second experiment we find that when there is no item repetition, interleaved and blocked study result in equivalent performance during the test phase. In the third experiment we find that when the study is passive and includes no item repetition, interleaved study results in higher test performance. We propose that learners create associations between items of the same category during blocked study and item repetition strengthens these associations. Interleaved study leads to weaker associations between items of the same category and therefore results in worse performance during test when there are item repetitions.

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Memory constraints affect statistical learning; statistical learning affects memory constraints

de Leeuw, J. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Memory constraints affect statistical learning; statistical learning affects memory constraints.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 530-535).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

We present evidence that successful chunk formation during a statistical learning task depends on how well the perceiver is able to parse the information that is presented between successive presentations of the to-be-learned chunk. First, we show that learners acquire a chunk better when the surrounding information is also chunk-able in a visual statistical learning task. We tested three process models of chunk formation, TRACX, PARSER, and MDLChunker, on our two different experimental conditions, and found that only PARSER and MDLChunker matched the observed result. These two models share the common principle of a memory capacity that is expanded as a result of learning. Though implemented in very different ways, both models effectively remember more individual items (the atomic components of a sequence) as additional chunks are formed. The ability to remember more information directly impacts learning in the models, suggesting that there is a positive-feedback loop in chunk learning.

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Getting from here to there: Testing the effectiveness of an interactive mathematics intervention embedding perceptual learning

Ottmar, E. R., Landy, D., Goldstone, R. L., & Weitnauer, E. (2015).  Getting from here to there: Testing the effectiveness of an interactive mathematics intervention embedding perceptual learning. Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1793-1798).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

 

We describe an interactive mathematics technology intervention From Here to There! (FH2T) that was developed by our research team. This dynamic program allows users to manipulate and transform mathematical expressions. In this paper, we present initial findings from a classroom study that investigates whether using FH2T improves learning. We compare learning gains from two different instantiations of FH2T (retrieval practice and fluid visualizations), as well as a control group, and investigate the role of prior knowledge and content exposure in FH2T as possible moderators of learning. Findings, as well as implications for research and practice are discussed.

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A computational model for learning structured concepts from physical scenes

Weitnauer, E., Landy, D., Goldstone, R. L., & Ritter, H. (2015).  A computational model for learning structured concepts from physical scenes.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 2631-2636).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

Category learning is an essential cognitive mechanism for making sense of the world. Many existing computational category learning models focus on categories that can be represented as feature vectors, and yet a substantial part of the categories we encounter have members with inner structure and inner relationships. We present a novel computational model that perceives and learns structured concepts from physical scenes. The perception and learning processes happen simultaneously and interact with each other. We apply the model to a set of physical categorization tasks and promote specific types of comparisons by manipulating presentation order of examples. We find that these manipulations affect the algorithm similarly to human participants that worked on the same task. Both benefit from juxtaposing examples of different categories ‚Äď especially ones that are similar to each other. When juxtaposing examples from the same category they do better if the examples are dissimilar to each other.

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It does belong together: Cross-modal correspondences influence cross-modal integration during perceptual learning

Brunel, L., Carvalho, P. F., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  It does belong together: Cross-modal correspondences influence cross-modal integration during perceptual learning.  Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 358.  doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00358

Experiencing a stimulus in one sensory modality is often associated with an experience in another sensory modality. For instance, seeing a lemon might produce a sensation of sourness. This might indicate some kind of cross-modal correspondence between vision and gustation. The aim of the current study was to provide explore whether such cross-modal correspondences influence cross-modal integration during perceptual learning. To that end, we conducted 2 experiments. Using a speeded classification task, Experiment 1 established a cross-modal correspondence between visual lightness and the frequency of an auditory tone.  Using a short-term priming procedure, Experiment 2 showed that manipulation of such cross-modal correspondences led to the creation of a crossmodal unit regardless of the nature of the correspondence (i.e., congruent, Experiment 2a or incongruent, Experiment 2b). However, a comparison of priming-effects sizes suggested that cross-modal correspondences modulate cross-modal integration during learning and thus leading to new learned units that have different stability over time. We discuss the implications of our results for the relation between cross-modal correspondence and perceptual learning in the context of a Bayesian explanation of cross-modal correspondences.

 

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Brain self-portraits: the cognitive science of visualizing neural structure and function

Goldstone, R. L., Börner, K., & Pestilli, F. (2015).  Brain self-portraits: the cognitive science of visualizing neural structure and function.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 462-474.

With several large-scale human brain projects currently underway and a range of neuroimaging techniques growing in availability to researchers, the amount and diversity of data relevant for understanding the human brain is increasing rapidly. A complete understanding of the brain must incorporate information about 3D neural location, activity, timing, and task. Data mining, highperformance computing, and visualization can serve as tools that augment human intellect; however, the resulting visualizations must take into account human abilities and limitations to be effective tools for exploration and communication. In this feature review, we discuss key challenges and opportunities that arise when leveraging the sophisticated perceptual and conceptual processing of the human brain to help researchers understand brain structure, function, and behavior.

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What you learn is more than what you see: What can sequence effects tell us about inductive category learning?

Carvalho, P. F. & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). What you learn is more than what you see: What can sequence effects tell us about inductive category learning?. Frontiers in Psychology, 6 (505).

Inductive category learning takes place across time. As such, it is not surprising that the sequence in which information is studied has an impact in what is learned and how efficient learning is. In this paper we review research on different learning sequences and how this impacts learning. We analyze different aspects of interleaved (frequent alternation between categories during study) and blocked study (infrequent alternation between categories during study) that might explain how and when one sequence of study results in improved learning. While these different sequences of study differ in the amount of temporal spacing and temporal juxtaposition between items of different categories, these aspects do not seem to account for the majority of the results available in the literature. However, differences in the type of category being studied and the duration of the retention interval between study and test may play an important role. We conclude that there is no single aspect that is able to account for all the evidence available. Understanding learning as a process of sequential comparisons in time and how different sequences fundamentally alter the statistics of this experience offers a promising framework for understanding sequencing effects in category learning. We use this framework to present novel predictions and hypotheses for future research on sequencing effects in inductive category learning.

The extent and arrangement of assistance during training impacts test performance

Tullis, J. G., Goldstone, R. L., & Hanson, A. J. (2015).  The extent and arrangement of assistance during training impacts test performance.  Journal of Motor Behavior, 5, 442-452.

Various kinds of assistance, including prompts, worked examples, direct instruction, and modeling, are widely provided to learners across educational and training programs.  Yet, the effectiveness of assistance during training on long-term learning is widely debated.  In the current experiment, we examined how the extent and schedule of assistance during training on a novel mouse movement task impacted unassisted test performance.  Learners received different schedules of assistance during training, including constant assistance, no assistance, probabilistic assistance, alternating assistance, and faded assistance.  Constant assistance led to better performance during training than no assistance.  However, constant assistance during training resulted in the worst unassisted test performance.  Faded assistance during training resulted in the best test performance.  This suggests that fading may allow learners to create an internal model of the assistance without depending upon the assistance in a manner that impedes successful transfer to unassisted circumstances.

The benefits of interleaved and blocked study: Different tasks benefit from different schedules of study

Carvalho, P. F. & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). The benefits of interleaved and blocked study: Different tasks benefit from different schedules of study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22(1), 241-248.

Research on how information should be studied during inductive category learning has identified both interleaving of categories and blocking by category as beneficial for learning. Previous work suggests that this mixed evidence can be reconciled by taking into account within- and between-category similarity relations. In this paper we present a new moderating factor. Across two experiments, one group of participants studied categories actively (by studying the objects without correct category assignment and actively figuring out what the category is), either interleaved or blocked. Another group studied the same categories passively (objects and correct category assignment were simultaneously provided). Results from a subsequent generalization task show that whether interleaved or blocked study result in better learning depend on whether study is active or passive. One account of these results is that different presentation sequences and tasks promote different patterns of attention to stimulus components. Passive learning and blocking promote attending to commonalities within categories, while active learning and interleaving promote attending to differences between categories.

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Homo Socialis and Homo Sapiens

Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Homo Socialis and Homo Sapiens.  Review of Behavioral Economics, 2, 77-87.

[This paper is a commentary on the following article: Gintis, H., & Helbing, D. (2015). Homo Socialis: An Analytical Core for Sociological Theory.  Review of Behavioral Economics.]

Explaining how patterns of collective behavior emerge from interactions among individuals with diverse, sometimes opposing, goals is a societally crucial and particularly timely pursuit. It is timely because humans are more tightly connected to one another now than ever before. From 1984 to 2014 there has been more than a million-fold increase in the number of devices that can reach the global digital network. Although web technology is new and transformative, from a broader perspective, it is also just a recent manifestation of humanity’s perpetual drive to become more intermeshed. Earlier manifestations of this drive include the printing press, global transportation networks, telecommunication systems, and the academy. These social networks have catalyzed the formation of otherwise unattainable social patterns. Understanding the origins and possible destinations of these social patterns is both scientifically and pragmatically consequential.

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Fitting Perception in and to Cognition

Goldstone, R. L., de Leeuw, J. R., & Landy, D. H. (2015).  Fitting Perception in and to Cognition.  Cognition, 135, 24-29.

Perceptual modules adapt at evolutionary, lifelong, and moment-to-moment temporal scales to better serve the informational needs of cognizers. Perceptual learning is a powerful way for an individual to become tuned to frequently recurring patterns in its specific local environment that are pertinent to its goals without requiring costly executive control resources to be deployed. Mechanisms like predictive coding, categorical perception, and action-informed vision allow our perceptual systems to interface well with cognition by generating perceptual outputs that are systematically guided by how they will be used. In classic conceptions of perceptual modules, people have access to the modules’ outputs but no ability to adjust their internal workings. However, humans routinely and strategically alter their perceptual systems via training regimes that have predictable and specific outcomes. In fact, employing a combination of strategic and automatic devices for adapting perception is one of the most promising approaches to improving cognition.

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