Effects of Varying Levels of Expertise on the Basic Level of Categorization

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Six experiments were conducted on the effects of expertise on basic-level categorization. Individuals with varying levels of knowledge about songbirds generated lists of attributes, named objects, identified and discriminated among object silhouettes, verified category membership at 4 hierarchical levels, and visually identified songbirds primed either by species-specific, related, or unrelated birdsong. Results indicated that the original basic level never lost its privileged status. Expertise increased access to categorical information at the subordinate level for intermediate experts and at both the subordinate and sub-subordinate levels for advanced experts, causing these sublevels to function as basic. Throughout the continuum of expertise, conceptual knowledge interacted with perception. Accordingly, experts attended to different and more subtle perceptual features than novices.

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