Category inference as a function of correlational structure, category discriminability, and number of available cues

Matthew E. Lancaster, Ryan Shelhamer, Donald Homa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Two experiments investigated category inference when categories were composed of correlated or uncorrelated dimensions and the categories overlapped minimally or moderately. When the categories minimally overlapped, the dimensions were strongly correlated with the category label. Following a classification learning phase, subsequent transfer required the selection of either a category label or a feature when one, two, or three features were missing. Experiments 1 and 2 differed primarily in the number of learning blocks prior to transfer. In each experiment, the inference of the category label or category feature was influenced by both dimensional and category correlations, as well as their interaction. The number of cues available at test impacted performance more when the dimensional correlations were zero and category overlap was high. However, a minimal number of cues were sufficient to produce high levels of inference when the dimensions were highly correlated; additional cues had a positive but reduced impact, even when overlap was high. Subjects were generally more accurate in inferring the category label than a category feature regardless of dimensional correlation, category overlap, or number of cues available at test. Whether the category label functioned as a special feature or not was critically dependent upon these embedded correlations, with feature inference driven more strongly by dimensional correlations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-353
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Categorization
  • Concepts
  • Expertise
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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