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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2004 Sep;133(3):398-414.

Category learning in rhesus monkeys: a study of the Shepard, Hovland, and Jenkins (1961) tasks.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.


In influential research, R. N. Shepard, C. I. Hovland, and H. M. Jenkins (1961) surveyed humans' categorization abilities using tasks based in rules, exclusive-or (XOR) relations, and exemplar memorization. Humans' performance was poorly predicted by cue-conditioning or stimulus-generalization theories, causing Shepard et al. to describe it in terms of hypothesis selection and rule application that were possibly supported by verbal mediation. The authors of the current article surveyed monkeys' categorization abilities similarly. Monkeys, like humans, found category tasks with a single relevant dimension the easiest and perceptually chaotic tasks requiring exemplar memorization the most difficult. Monkeys, unlike humans, found tasks based in XOR relations very difficult. The authors discuss the character and basis of the species difference in categorization and consider whether monkeys are the generalization-based cognitive system that humans are not.

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