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Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics



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Abstract/ Summary

Variability in the representation of the decision criterion is assumed in many category learning models yet few studies have directly examined its impact. On each trial, criterial noise should result in drift in the criterion and will negatively impact categorization accuracy, particularly in rule-based categorization tasks where learning depends upon the maintenance and manipulation of decision criteria. The results of three experiments test this hypothesis and examine the impact of working memory on slowing the drift rate. Experiment 1 examined the effect of drift by inserting a 5 s delay between the categorization response and the delivery of corrective feedback, and working memory demand was manipulated by varying the number of decision criteria to be learned. Delayed feedback adversely affected performance, but only when working memory demand was high. Experiment 2 built upon a classic finding in the absolute identification literature and demonstrated that distributing the criteria across multiple dimensions decreases the impact of drift during the delay. Experiment 3 confirmed that the effect of drift during the delay is moderated by working memory. These results provide important insights into the interplay between criterial noise and working memory as well as providing important constraints for models of rule-based category learning.

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