Comparing perceptual category learning across modalities in the same individuals

Casey L. Roark*, Giorgio Paulon, Abhra Sarkar, Bharath Chandrasekaran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Category learning is a fundamental process in human cognition that spans the senses. However, much still remains unknown about the mechanisms supporting learning in different modalities. In the current study, we directly compared auditory and visual category learning in the same individuals. Thirty participants (22 F; 18–32 years old) completed two unidimensional rule-based category learning tasks in a single day – one with auditory stimuli and another with visual stimuli. We replicated the results in a second experiment with a larger online sample (N = 99, 45 F, 18–35 years old). The categories were identically structured in the two modalities to facilitate comparison. We compared categorization accuracy, decision processes as assessed through drift-diffusion models, and the generalizability of resulting category representation through a generalization test. We found that individuals learned auditory and visual categories to similar extents and that accuracies were highly correlated across the two tasks. Participants had similar evidence accumulation rates in later learning, but early on had slower rates for visual than auditory learning. Participants also demonstrated differences in the decision thresholds across modalities. Participants had more categorical generalizable representations for visual than auditory categories. These results suggest that some modality-general cognitive processes support category learning but also suggest that the modality of the stimuli may also affect category learning behavior and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-909
Number of pages12
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Audition
  • Category learning
  • Modality effects
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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