Bias to (and away from) the Extreme: Comparing Two Models of Categorical Perception Effects

Best, R. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (in press). Bias to (and away from) the Extreme: Comparing Two Models of Categorical Perception Effects.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Categorical Perception (CP) effects manifest as faster or more accurate discrimination between objects that come from different categories compared to objects that come from the same category, controlling for the physical differences between the objects. The most popular explanations of CP effects have relied on perceptual warping causing stimuli near a category boundary to appear more similar to stimuli within their own category and/ or less similar to stimuli from other categories. Hanley and Roberson (2011), on the basis of a pattern not previously noticed in CP experiments, proposed an explanation of CP effects that relies not on perceptual warping, but instead on inconsistent usage of category labels. Experiments 1 and 2 in this paper show a pattern opposite the one Hanley and Roberson pointed out. Experiment 3, using the same stimuli but with different choice statistics (i.e., different probabilities of each face being the target), obtains the same pattern as the one Hanley and Roberson showed. Simulations show that both category label and perceptual models are able to reproduce the patterns of results from both experiments, provided they include information about the choice statistics. This suggests two conclusions. First, the results described by Hanley and Roberson should not be taken as evidence in favor of a category label model. Second, given that participants did not receive feedback on their choices, there must be some mechanism by which participants monitor their own choices and adapt to the choice statistics present in the experiment.

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