More is generally better: Higher working memory capacity does not impair perceptual category learning

Michael L. Kalish, Ben R. Newell, John C. Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


It is sometimes supposed that category learning involves competing explicit and procedural systems, with only the former reliant on working memory capacity (WMC). In 2 experiments participants were trained for 3 blocks on both filtering (often said to be learned explicitly) and condensation (often said to be learned procedurally) category structures. Both experiments (total N = 160) demonstrated that participants with higher WMC tended to be more accurate in condensation tasks, but not less accurate in filtering tasks. Furthermore, state-trace analysis did not find a differential influence of WMC on performance in these tasks. Finally, inspection of the mixture of response strategies at play across the 2 conditions and 3 blocks showed only a minor influence of WMC, and then only on later training blocks. The results provide no support for the existence of a "system" of category learning that is independent of working memory and are instead consistent with most single-system interpretations of category learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-514
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Categorization
  • Category learning
  • Dissociable systems
  • Implicit learning
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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