The representational glue for incidental category learning is alignment with task-relevant behavior.

Academic Article


  • Category learning is fundamental to cognition, but little is known about how it proceeds in real-world environments when learners do not have instructions to search for category-relevant information, do not make overt category decisions, and do not experience direct feedback. Prior research demonstrates that listeners can acquire task-irrelevant auditory categories incidentally as they engage in primarily visuomotor tasks. The current study examines the factors that support this incidental category learning. Three experiments systematically manipulated the relationship of four novel auditory categories with a consistent visual feature (color or location) that informed a simple behavioral keypress response regarding the visual feature. In both an in-person experiment and two online replications with extensions, incidental auditory category learning occurred reliably when category exemplars consistently aligned with visuomotor demands of the primary task, but not when they were misaligned. The presence of an additional irrelevant visual feature that was uncorrelated with the primary task demands neither enhanced nor harmed incidental learning. By contrast, incidental learning did not occur when auditory categories were aligned consistently with one visual feature, but the motor response in the primary task was aligned with another, category-unaligned visual feature. Moreover, category learning did not reliably occur across passive observation or when participants made a category-nonspecific, generic motor response. These findings show that incidental learning of categories is strongly mediated by the character of coincident behavior. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
  • Authors

  • Roark, Casey
  • Lehet, Matthew I
  • Dick, Frederic
  • Holt, Lori L
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 2022
  • Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 769
  • End Page

  • 784
  • Volume

  • 48
  • Issue

  • 6