An inverse base rate effect with continuously valued stimuli

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14 Scopus citations


It is well known that people do not always make normative use of information about relative frequencies of categories when making categorical judgments. The "inverse base rate" effect (Medin & Edelson, 1988) is a typical example of this: Subjects violate normative reasoning principles by assigning certain ambiguous stimuli as belonging to the less frequent of two categories, rather than to the more common category. This effect has been explained as being due to the shifting of attention from shared stimulus features to distinctive features during learning. When stimuli are defined by values along continuous dimensions, rather than by the presence and absence of features, then attention could shift between dimensions or between values, or both. In three experiments, base rate differences were used to determine the way in which attention is shifted during learning about stimuli with continuously valued dimensions. Simulation modeling shows that the results are consistent with the movement of attention both between and within stimulus dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-597
Number of pages11
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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