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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A general theory of discrimination learning


One important component of learning is the ability to determine the correct conditions under which a rule should be applied. We review a number of systems that discover relevant conditions through a generalization process, and discuss some drawbacks of this approach. We then review an alternative approach to learning through discrimination, in which overly general rules are made more conservative when they lead to errors. Unlike generalization-based programs, a discrimination-based system is able to learn disjunctive rules, discover regularities in errorful data, recover from changes in the environment, and learn useful rules despite incomplete representations. We show how our theory of discrimination learning can be applied to the domains of concept attainment, strategy learning, first language acquisition, and cognitive development. Finally, we evaluate the theory along the dimensions of simplicity, generality, and fertility.

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