Categories & Concepts

Wed. 10:30-12, Muen D428

Matt Jones –


Class format


We will spend the bulk of each class discussing the articles assigned for that week.  This will not be a lecture-style review, but an analysis (and hopefully often a debate) of the core ideas, implications, validity, etc. of the research, with equal participation from everyone.  During the final 20 minutes or so, a background and summary will be presented for the following week’s readings.  Understanding the motivation, methods, and conclusions in advance should make reading the articles easier and more effective.  The goal is to have everyone come to class with a full understanding of the readings (although it’s perfectly alright to start with clarifying questions) so that the discussion can be as productive as possible.




Group discussion.  The most important contribution each person can make is to our discussions of the readings.  I believe a seminar course in which everyone actively participates can be the most productive and educational forum in grad school (often for the instructor as well).  Bringing together the various backgrounds and training of everyone in the room generally leads to a much richer perspective than would otherwise be possible.  There is a lot of individual variability in tendency to speak up in this type of environment, but it is critical to an academic career to be comfortable doing so.  You cannot succeed in this field without a willingness (and desire) to share your ideas in the face of criticism, and this is perhaps the best context to practice.  If you’re someone who has no qualms about dominating a debate, this is also a good place to practice restraint and listening.


Written reactions.  Each person should bring to each class a brief written reaction to the readings to be discussed.  You can email your reactions to me before class, or you can bring a printed copy, but either way they must be complete before class begins.  The reactions serve two purposes: as a nominal motivation to ensure everyone reads and carefully thinks about the articles, and as a starting point for the group discussion.  Reactions should not be summaries.  A few sentences at the beginning to summarize each article are generally useful, both for me to make sure everyone recognizes the critical points and for you to check your own understanding, but the primary content should be your own ideas in response to what you read.  These ideas can be anything from connections to other research (from this class or elsewhere); to possible extensions, improvements, or follow-up work; to criticisms of the authors’ logic or methods.


Summary presentations.  Each person will sign up to present a summary of the upcoming readings at the end of class on one or two weeks (depending size of the class).  Presentations should be 15-20 minutes long and structured as though you were presenting your own work at a conference.  A useful strategy is to copy key figures and tables out of each article and supplement with (scant) text stating the major points.  Focus on summarizing the research, as the authors present it (including motivation, background, methods, results, and conclusions), and save your own reactions for the following week.  You will also be in charge of getting the discussion going and answering any clarifying questions people may have after reading the articles themselves.  Written reactions are not required for papers you present.



                Group discussion                                 40%

                Written reactions                                 20%

                Summary presentations                      40%



9/3 Foundations

Collins, A. M. and Quillan, M. R. (1969). Retrieval time form semantic memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 8, 241-248.

Rosch, E. and Mervis, C. B. (1975). Family resemblance: Studies in the internal structure of categories. Cognitive Psychology, 7, 573-605.

Shepard, R.N, Hovland, C.I., & Jenkins, H.M. (1961). Learning and memorization of classifications. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 75, Whole No. 517.

9/10 Broader Issues

Murphy, G. I. and Medin, D. L. (1985). The role of theories in conceptual coherence. Psychological Review, 92. 289-316.

Barsalou, L. W. (1985). Ideals, central tendency, and frequency of instantiation as determinants of graded structure of categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 11, 629-654.

Markman, A. B. and Ross, B. H. (2003). Category Learning and Category Use. Psychological Bulletin.

Presenting next week's readings: Clare

9/17 Representations

Nosofsky, R.M. (1992). Similarity scaling and cognitive process models. Annual Review of Psychology, 43, 25-53.

Smith, J. D. and Minda, J. P. (1998). Prototypes in the mist: The early epochs of category learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 24, 1411-1436.

Ashby, F.G., & Lee, W.W. (1991). Predicting similarity and categorization from identification. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 120(2), 150-172.

Presenting next week's readings: Matt

9/24 Similarity

Shepard, R. N. (1987). Toward a universal law of generalization for psychological science. Science, 237, 1317–1323.

Tversky, A. (1977). Features of similarity. Psychological Review, 84, 327-352.

Goldstone, R. L. (1994). The role of similarity in categorization: Providing a groundwork. Cognition, 52, 125-157.

Presenting next week's readings: Fabian

10/1 Rational Approaches

J. B. Tenenbaum, T. L. Griffiths (2001). Generalization, similarity, and Bayesian inference. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 629-641.

Jekel, F., Scholkopf, B., & Wichmann, F. A. (2007). A tutorial on kernel methods for categorization. Journal of Mathematical Psychology 51(6), 343-358.

Jekel, F., Scholkopf, B., & Wichmann, F. A. (2008). Generalization and similarity in exemplar models of categorization: Insights from machine learning. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 15, 256-271.

Presenting next week's readings: Chris

10/8 Flexible Representation

Smith, E. E., Patalano, A. L., and Jonides, J. (1998). Alternative strategies of categorization. Cognition, 65, 167-196.

Nosofsky, R. M., and Palmeri, T. J., and Mckinley, S. C. (1994). Rule-plus-exception model of classification learning. Psychological Review, 104, 266-300.

Love, B.C., Medin, D.L, & Gureckis, T.M (2004). SUSTAIN: A Network Model of Category Learning. Psychological Review, 111, 309-332.

Presenting next week's readings: Shaw

10/15 Neurological Dissociations

Ashby, F. G., & Ell, S. W. (2001). The neurobiology of category learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5, 204-210.

Ashby, F.G., Maddox, W.T. (2005) Human Category Learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 149-78.

Maddox, W. T., Love, B. C., Glass, B. D., Filoteo, J. V. (in press) When More is Less: Feedback Effects in Perceptual Category Learning. Cognition.

Presenting next week's readings:Chris

10/22 Clinical Populations

Knowlton, B. J., & Squire, L. R. (1993, December 10). The learning of natural categories: Parallel memory systems for item memory and category-level knowledge. Science, 262, 1747-1749.

Nosofsky, R. M., and Zaki, S. R. (1998). Dissociations between categorization and recognition in amnesic and normal individuals: An exemplar-based interpretation. Psychological Science, 9, 247-255.

Filoteo, J.V., Maddox, W.T. (2007) Category Learning in Parkinson's Disease. In Maio-Kun Sun (Ed.) Research Progress in Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia, Vol. 3 (pp. 2-26).

Presenting next week's readings: Clare

10/29 Interactions with Perception

Goldstone, R. L. (1994). Influences of categorization on perceptual discrimination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 123, 178-200.

Schyns, P. G., Goldstone, R. L., & Thibaut, J-P (1998). Development of features in object concepts. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 1-54. Note: Commentaries following this article are partially optional. Pick a few that look interesting.

Richardson, D., Spivey, M., Barsalou, L., McRae, K. (2003). Spatial representations activated during real-time comprehension of verbs. Cognitive Science, 27(5), 767-780.

Presenting next week's readings: Shaw

11/5 Sequential Effects

Stewart, N. Brown, G. D. A., & Chater, N. (2002). Sequence effects in categorization of simple perceptual stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 3-11.

Jones, M., Love, B.C., & Maddox, W.T.E. (2006). Recency effects as a window to generalization: Separating decisional and perceptual sequential effects in category learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 316-332.

Jones, M., Maddox, W. T., & Love, B. C. (2005). Stimulus generalization in category learning. Proceedings of the 27th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 1066-1071.

Presenting next week's readings: Chandra

11/12 Variability

Rips, L. J. (1989). Similarity, typicality, and categorization. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (pp. 21-59). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, A. L., Nosofsky, R. M., & Zaki, S. R. (2001). Category variability, exemplar similarity, and perceptual classification. Memory & Cognition, 29, 1165-1175.

Sakamoto, Y., Jones, M., & Love, B. C. (2008). Putting the Psychology Back into Psychological Models: Mechanistic vs. Rational Approaches. Memory & Cognition, 36, 1057-1065.

Presenting next week's readings: Fabian

11/19 Roles and Relations

Markman, A. B. and Gentner, D. (1993). Structural alignment during similarity comparisons. Cognitive Psychology, 25, 431- 467.

Jones, M., & Love, B.C. (2007). Beyond common features: The role of roles in determining similarity. Cognitive Psychology, 55, 196-231.

Tomlinson, M., & Love, B. C. (2006). From pigeons to humans: Grounding relational learning in concrete examples. AAAI.

Presenting next week's readings: Chandra

12/3 Induction

Osherson, D. N., Smith, E. E., Wilkie, O., Lopez, A., and Shafir, E. (1990). Category-based induction. Psychological Review, 97, 185-200.

Sloman, S. A. (1993). Feature-based induction. Cognitive Psychology, 25, 231-280.

Heit, E. and Rubinstein, J. (1994). Similarity and property effects in inductive reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20, 411- 422.

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