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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2002 Mar;28(2):275-92.

Comparing prototype-based and exemplar-based accounts of category learning and attentional allocation.

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Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 61801, USA.


Exemplar theory was motivated by research that often used D. L. Medin and M. M. Schaffer's (1978) 5/4 stimulus set. The exemplar model has seemed to fit categorization data from this stimulus set better than a prototype model can. Moreover, the exemplar model alone predicts a qualitative aspect of performance that participants sometimes show. In 2 experiments, the authors reexamined these findings. In both experiments, a prototype model fit participants' performance profiles better than an exemplar model did when comparable prototype and exemplar models were used. Moreover, even when participants showed the qualitative aspect of performance, the exemplar model explained it by making implausible assumptions about human attention and effort in categorization tasks. An independent assay of participants' attentional strategies suggested that the description the exemplar model offers in such cases is incorrect. A review of 30 uses of the 5/4 stimulus set in the literature reinforces this suggestion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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