Trial-by-trial switching between procedural and declarative categorization systems

Matthew J. Crossley*, Jessica L. Roeder, Sebastien Helie, F. Gregory Ashby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Considerable evidence suggests that human category learning recruits multiple memory systems. A popular assumption is that procedural memory is used to form stimulus-to-response mappings, whereas declarative memory is used to form and test explicit rules about category membership. The multiple systems framework has been successful in motivating and accounting for a broad array of empirical observations over the past 20 years. Even so, only a couple of studies have examined how the different categorization systems interact. Both previous studies suggest that switching between explicit and procedural responding is extremely difficult. But they leave unanswered the critical questions of whether trial-by-trial system switching is possible, and if so, whether it is qualitatively different than trial-by-trial switching between two explicit tasks. The experiment described in this article addressed these questions. The results (1) confirm that effective trial-by-trial system switching, although difficult, is possible; (2) suggest that switching between tasks mediated by different memory systems is more difficult than switching between two declarative memory tasks; and (3) point to a serious shortcoming of current category-learning theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-384
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


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