USE OF EVIDENCE IN A CATEGORIZATION TASK: analytic and holistic processing modes

Published in Cognitive Processing, 2017

Alberto Greco*
Stefania Moretti*

analytic and holistic processing modes

* Lab of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences,
Dept. of Social Sciences,
University of Genoa


Category learning performance can be influenced by many contextual factors, but the effects of these factors are not the same for all learners. The present study suggests that these differences can be due to the different ways evidence is used, according to two main basic modalities of processing information, analytically or holistically. In order to test the impact of the information provided, an inductive rule-based task was designed, in which feature salience and comparison informativeness between examples of two categories were manipulated during the learning phases, through the introduction and the progressive reduction of perceptual biases. To gather data on processing modalities we devised the Active Feature Composition task, a production task that does not require classifying new items but reproducing them by combining features. At the end, an explicit rating task was performed, which entailed assessing the accuracy of a set of possible categorization rules. A combined analysis of the data collected with these two different tests enabled profiling participants in regards to the kind of processing modality, the structure of representations and the quality of categorial judgments. Results showed that despite the fact that the information provided was the same for all participants, those who adopted analytic processing better exploited evidence and performed more accurately. Whereas with holistic processing categorization is perfectly possible but inaccurate. Finally the cognitive implications of the proposed procedure, with regard to involved processes and representations, are discussed.

Keywords: categorization; classification; analytic and holistic processes

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