In contrast to the static categories assumed in most categorization experiments, many real-world categories undergo gradual and systematic change in their definitions over time. Four experiments were carried out to study such category change. In these studies, participants successfully adjusted as category change occurred, but also showed a lingering and cumulative effect of past observations. The participants' performance was closely modeled by incorporating memory decay for past observations into J. R. Anderson's (1990, 1991) rational categorization algorithm and into a version of R. M. Nosofsky's (1986) exemplar categorization model. The resulting models suggest that the decay function is closer to a power law than to an exponential and that decay occurs both by item and by time, with the item decay being stronger than the time decay. The finding of power law decay gives additional support to claims that exemplar memories are used in categorization.
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