Procedural learning of unstructured categories

Matthew J. Crossley, Nils R. Madsen, F. Gregory Ashby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Unstructured categories are those in which the stimuli are assigned to each contrasting category randomly, and thus there is no rule- or similarity-based strategy for determining category membership. Intuition suggests that unstructured categories are likely to be learned via explicit memorization that is under the control of declarative memory. In contrast to this prediction, neuroimaging studies of unstructured-category learning have reported task-related activation in the striatum, but typically not in the hippocampus-results that seem more consistent with procedural learning than with a declarative-memory strategy. This article reports the first known behavioral test of whether unstructured-category learning is mediated by explicit strategies or by procedural learning. Our results suggest that the feedback-based learning of unstructured categories is mediated by procedural memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1202-1209
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • categorization
  • procedural learning
  • memorization


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