Conventional Wisdom: Negotiating Conventions of Reference Enhances Category Learning
Article first published online: 3 FEB 2012
Copyright © 2012 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 36, Issue 4, pages 607–634, May/June 2012
How to Cite
Voiklis, J. and Corter, J. E. (2012), Conventional Wisdom: Negotiating Conventions of Reference Enhances Category Learning. Cognitive Science, 36: 607–634. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01230.x
- Issue published online: 4 MAY 2012
- Article first published online: 3 FEB 2012
- Received 14 January 2011; received in revised form 27 April 2011; accepted 29 April 2011
- Joint activity;
- Category learning
Collaborators generally coordinate their activities through communication, during which they readily negotiate a shared lexicon for activity-related objects. This social-pragmatic activity both recruits and affects cognitive and social-cognitive processes ranging from selective attention to perspective taking. We ask whether negotiating reference also facilitates category learning or might private verbalization yield comparable facilitation? Participants in three referential conditions learned to classify imaginary creatures according to combinations of functional features—nutritive and destructive—that implicitly defined four categories. Remote partners communicated in the Dialogue condition. In the Monologue condition, participants recorded audio descriptions for their own later use. Controls worked silently. Dialogue yielded better category learning, with wider distribution of attention. Monologue offered no benefits over working silently. We conclude that negotiating reference compels collaborators to find communicable structure in their shared activity; this social-pragmatic constraint accelerates category learning and likely provides much of the benefit recently ascribed to learning labeled categories.