Organized simultaneous displays facilitate learning of complex natural science categories

Meagher, B. J., Carvalho, P. F., Goldstone, R. L., & Nosofsky, R. M. (2017).  Organized simultaneous displays facilitate learning of complex natural science categories.  Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, DOI 10.3758/s13423-017-1251-6.

Subjects learned to classify images of rocks into the categories igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. In accord with the real-world structure of these categories, the to-beclassified rocks in the experiments had a dispersed similarity structure. Our central hypothesis was that learning of these complex categories would be improved through observational study of organized, simultaneous displays of the multiple rock tokens. In support of this hypothesis, a technique that included the presentation of the simultaneous displays during phases of the learning process yielded improved acquisition (Experiment 1) and generalization (Experiment 2) compared to methods that relied solely on sequential forms of study and testing. The technique appears to provide a good starting point for application of cognitive-psychology principles of effective category learning to the science classroom.

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