Ready to Learn: Predictive Exposure to Category-Relevant Regularities Facilitates Novel Category Learning

AbstractPrior evidence suggests that category learning can occur implicitly by detecting regular co-occurrences of features within categories. Less studied is whether regularities wherein category membership predicts other events or actions also foster category learning. Moreover, we know little about whether, and to what degree, exposure to these regularities facilitates subsequent supervised learning. Here, participants were pre-exposed to exemplars from two categories during a cover task, while uninformed of their category membership. Pre-exposure occurred under conditions in which category membership did (Predictive Mapping) or did not (Mere Exposure) predict task events to which participants responded. Baseline participants completed the same task with category-irrelevant stimuli. Subsequently, all participants were taught the categories (using pre-exposure exemplars) under explicit supervision. Whereas neither Predictive Mapping nor Mere Exposure influenced cover task performance (vs. Baseline), Predictive Mapping substantially improved subsequent supervised category learning. These findings point to latent category learning given pre-exposure to Predictive Mapping regularities.

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