Categories and range effects in human spatial memory

Ken Cheng*, Marcia L. Spetch, Andros Hoan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


After learning a particular target stimulus, such as a location, humans' judgments of whether a particular stimulus is the target or not is affected by the range of stimuli presented on tests. In such frequently found range effects, the peak of "yes" responses shifts toward the middle of the range of tested stimuli. Humans also code both the metric value and categorical information regarding a target stimulus, and use both forms of codes, such that responses are biased toward the category middle (category adjustment model, Duffy et al., 2010). Categorical codes should also affect range effects, with a test range crossing category boundaries producing less range effect than a test range within a category. We examined a set of past results presented in a review of range effects in humans (Thomas, 1993) for functional explanations in light of categorical coding, and found that all results could be reasonably explained. Additional experiments comparing range effects across vs. within a category found limited supporting evidence, perhaps because the range effects were weak. The adaptive functions of using (in part) categorical coding accounts for many seemingly peculiar biases in human cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 231
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author/s. This Document is protected by copyright and was first published by Frontiers. All rights reserved. It is reproduced with permission.


  • range effect
  • category
  • category adjustment model
  • spatial memory
  • human


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