Relationships between item and category learning: Evidence that abstraction is not automatic

Douglas L. Medin*, Gerald I. Dewey, Timothy D. Murphy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


To test the assumption that the abstraction of category-level information is an automatic consequence of experience with exemplars, 160 undergraduates were required to learn identification (exemplar level) and/or classification (category level) responses to photographs. Exemplar learning generally proceeded faster and with fewer errors than did category learning, and depending on the specific procedural manipulation, abstraction ranged from good to poor. When abstraction was good (as defined by transfer performance), the interactive-cue model best characterized the results; as degree of abstraction declined, the independent-cue model performed best. Results are discussed in terms of the relative contributions of category-level and exemplar-specific (idiosyncratic) information during classification learning. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-625
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 1983


  • abstraction of category-level vs exemplar-specific information, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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