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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