Rule-based category learning in children: The role of age and executive functioning

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Rule-based category learning was examined in 4-11 year-olds and adults. Participants were asked to learn a set of novel perceptual categories in a classification learning task. Categorization performance improved with age, with younger children showing the strongest rule-based deficit relative to older children and adults. Model-based analyses provided insight regarding the type of strategy being used to solve the categorization task, demonstrating that the use of the task appropriate strategy increased with age. When children and adults who identified the correct categorization rule were compared, the performance deficit was no longer evident. Executive functions were also measured. While both working memory and inhibitory control were related to rule-based categorization and improved with age, working memory specifically was found to marginally mediate the age-related improvements in categorization. When analyses focused only on the sample of children, results showed that working memory ability and inhibitory control were associated with categorization performance and strategy use. The current findings track changes in categorization performance across childhood, demonstrating at which points performance begins to mature and resemble that of adults. Additionally, findings highlight the potential role that working memory and inhibitory control may play in rule-based category learning.




Rabi, R., & Minda, J. P. (2014). Rule-based category learning in children: The role of age and executive functioning. PLoS ONE, 9(1).

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