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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2004 Sep;133(3):382-97.

The role of bottom-up processing in perceptual categorization by 3- to 4-month-old infants: simulations and data.

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  • 1Psychology Department, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.


Disentangling bottom-up and top-down processing in adult category learning is notoriously difficult. Studying category learning in infancy provides a simple way of exploring category learning while minimizing the contribution of top-down information. Three- to 4-month-old infants presented with cat or dog images will form a perceptual category representation for cat that excludes dogs and for dog that includes cats. The authors argue that an inclusion relationship in the distribution of features in the images explains the asymmetry. Using computational modeling and behavioral testing, the authors show that the asymmetry can be reversed or removed by using stimulus images that reverse or remove the inclusion relationship. The findings suggest that categorization of nonhuman animal images by young infants is essentially a bottom-up process.

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