Levels of Learning: A Comparison of Concept Formation and Language Acquisition
journal contributionposted on 01.08.1991 by Janet L McDonald, Brian Macwhinney
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The Competition Model of Bates and MacWhinney explains how multiple cues may be acquired and used in assigning linguistic roles in natural language sentences. This paper extends the domain of this model to the nonlinguistic realm by examining the acquisition of categories in a concept learning task. As in the linguistic domain, classification in this particular concept learning task is determined by multiple probabilistic cues. On any particular instance, a cue may or may not be present. Moreover, if a cue is in conflict with another, stronger cue, it may not indicate the correct classification. Error rates and reaction times on this type of concept learning task show a two stage pattern of development. People first rely on cues that most often give the correct classification over all the instances seen. When errors persist, people adjust the strengths of the cues to reflect the relative strengths cues have in conflict situations. The results from this laboratory concept learning task mirror those found in the natural language domain, underscoring the generality of the learning mechanism postulated in the Competition Model