Strategies and classification learning

Douglas L. Medin*, Edward E. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


How do strategies affect the learning of categories that lack necessary and sufficient attributes? The usual answer is that different strategies correspond to different models. Results from the present study provide evidence for an alternative view: Strategy variations induced by instructions affect only the amount of information represented about attributes, not the process operating on these representations. 96 17-30 yr old Ss were required to classify schematic faces into 2 categories. Three groups of Ss worked with different sets of instructions: form a prototype of each category, learn each category as a rule-plus-exception, or standard neutral instructions. In addition to learning the faces (Phase 1), Ss were given transfer tests on learned and novel faces (Phase 2) and speeded categorization tests on learned faces (Phase 3). There were performance differences in all 3 phases due to instructions, but these results are readily accounted for by specific changes in the representations posited by the context model of D. L. Medin and M. M. Schaffer; that is, strategies seemed to affect only the amount of information stored about each exemplar's attributes. (11 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-253
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1981


  • experimental instructions, strategy variations in categorization of faces, 17-30 yr olds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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