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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comparison Promotes the Spontaneous Transfer of Relational Categories


Snoddy and Kurtz (2020) demonstrated spontaneous transfer of relational categories to new learning. Recognition memory data suggested that transfer was driven by schematization during learning. In the present study, we explored whether schema abstraction underlies transfer and recognition effects. Participants were assigned to condition based on the type of initial learning: classification with comparison, supervised observation with comparison, single-item supervised observation, or baseline (no learning). After initial learning, participants underwent a study phase and recognition test on novel stimuli followed by a target category learning task involving the same underlying category structures expressed in a new domain. During the recognition test, all conditions led to increased false alarms relative to baseline. Only the comparison conditions exhibited analogical transfer on the target category learning task. Results suggest that comparison facilitates the transfer of relational categories (due to schema abstraction), but recognition memory effects may be driven by more general categorization mechanisms.

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