What you learn is more than what you see: What can sequence effects tell us about inductive category learning?

Carvalho, P. F. & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). What you learn is more than what you see: What can sequence effects tell us about inductive category learning?. Frontiers in Psychology, 6 (505).

Inductive category learning takes place across time. As such, it is not surprising that the sequence in which information is studied has an impact in what is learned and how efficient learning is. In this paper we review research on different learning sequences and how this impacts learning. We analyze different aspects of interleaved (frequent alternation between categories during study) and blocked study (infrequent alternation between categories during study) that might explain how and when one sequence of study results in improved learning. While these different sequences of study differ in the amount of temporal spacing and temporal juxtaposition between items of different categories, these aspects do not seem to account for the majority of the results available in the literature. However, differences in the type of category being studied and the duration of the retention interval between study and test may play an important role. We conclude that there is no single aspect that is able to account for all the evidence available. Understanding learning as a process of sequential comparisons in time and how different sequences fundamentally alter the statistics of this experience offers a promising framework for understanding sequencing effects in category learning. We use this framework to present novel predictions and hypotheses for future research on sequencing effects in inductive category learning.