Effects of Object Manipulation on Category Learning
Traditionally, cognitive theories of categorization have supported amodal representation systems that store information about objects in a hierarchical nature using symbols that have no direct correlation to the object being represented. Such theories are very flexible and can explain virtually any observed phenomenon, but have little predictive power. Recently, an alternative system - the perceptual symbol system - has gained popularity as a framework that can actually predict observed cognitive effects. Several experiments seem to imply that encountering an object or a reference to the object, even when the object is not the focus of the encounter, causes a mental representation of the object to be generated which can affect further processing. These experiments have used commonplace items to test subjects and thus tell us about category use; our study will instead use newly encountered objects to see if a similar effect will occur thus telling us about category learning. Our experiment was conducted in the CUBE - a three-dimensional virtual reality environment - allowing participants to manipulate the objects in a natural manner (e.g. full freedom of motion using intuitive, gesture-based control); participants were paid subjects recruited by posting advertisements around a Midwestern university. Participants first completed a task where they learned to categorize objects by trial and error. Next, subjects were presented with a larger set of objects and a new task: determine if each object was seen in the learning portion. We found significant differences in reaction times of the second task which were correlated to the manipulation performed in the first task. This effect supports the claims made by perceptual symbol system theorists and for the first time shows the effect in newly encountered objects.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Psychology and Computer Science
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