Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Matt Jones

Second Advisor

Alice Healy

Third Advisor

Tim Curran


In rule-contingent tasks (e.g., mathematics or physics), the correct rule depends on the type of scenario that is encountered. In such instances, it can be useful to partition knowledge into corresponding categories for each type of scenario. Moreover, the category representations that are acquired at the outset of learning may be difficult to restructure and may affect subsequent learning; this can be particularly important when the knowledge that is acquired is incorrect or incomplete. Thus, it may be critical that people form the correct category representations at the outset of learning. It is proposed that learning can be improved if such categories are acquired at the outset of a task, as opposed to later stages. A series of experiments are reported which provide moderate support for the predicted hypothesis, but further research is required to better understand the learning mechanism(s) that drive this effect.