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Comparison and contrast in perceptual categorization

Hampton, J. A., Estes, Z. & Simmons, C. L. (2005). Comparison and contrast in perceptual categorization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 31(6), pp. 1459-1476. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.31.6.1459


People categorized pairs of perceptual stimuli that varied in both category membership and pairwise similarity. Experiments 1 and 2 showed categorization of 1 color of a pair to be reliably contrasted from that of the other. This similarity-based contrast effect occurred only when the context stimulus was relevant for the categorization of the target (Experiment 3). The effect was not simply owing to perceptual color contrast (Experiment 4), and it extended to pictures from common semantic categories (Experiment 5). Results were consistent with a sign-and-magnitude version of N. Stewart and G. D. A. Brown's (2005) similarity-dissimilarity generalized context model, in which categorization is affected by both similarity to and difference from target categories. The data are also modeled with criterion setting theory (M. Treisman & T. C. Williams, 1984), in which the decision criterion is systematically shifted toward the mean of the current stimuli.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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