The effect of personality on attentional strategy in category learning

Tharp, Ian James. 2007. The effect of personality on attentional strategy in category learning. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

his thesis explores the mediating effects of personality on attention and performance during the learning of novel categories. Major theories of category learning emphasise the role of dopamine on a variety of processes engaged during such learning. Two core personality domains, namely extraversion and a cluster of traits collectively termed impulsive, anti-social, sensation seeking (ImpASS), were considered. These personality traits were of interest because it has been suggested that their biological basis may partly reflect variation in dopaminergic neurotransmission. Schizotypal personality, owing to its association with schizophrenia, may also reflect dopaminergic function and was also considered. A series of behavioural experiments were undertaken to examine the relationship between these key personality constructs and the learning of new stimulus-category associations. In particular the manner in which the properties (e.g., size, shape, colour etc) of the stimuli were utilised during the learning of the category labels was considered. Various studies allowed assessment of both accuracy performance and attentional strategy. The first study involved the comparison of performance on two distinct tasks, with identical stimuli and responses. The category structure was manipulated such that the rule for one task was simple and verbalisable, whereas the rule for the other was more complex and not easily verbalisable. A subsequent study explored the ability to adapt a reasonably accurate simple response strategy to a more complex, yet more appropriate (and beneficial) strategy. Eye-tracking methods were employed, in further similar studies, to measure the 'attention' given to different stimulus features. Reaction time methodology was used in another study to explore the degree of incidental learning about nominally task irrelevant stimulus information, during a simple classification task. Extraversion and ImpASS often appeared differentially associated with categorisation performance and strategy use. The latter trait was associated with a preference for simplistic or more salient category rules and, in contrast to extraversion, was associated with less flexible modification of response strategy. The results presented also emphasized the important role of attentional processes during category learning. For example, positive schizotypy was associated with decreased processing of nominally irrelevant stimulus features during speeded categorisation. The implications of the results for future work, and for theories of the personality constructs investigated, were also considered.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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personality, attention, performance, category learning, attentional strategy



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Date Deposited:

10 Jul 2020 10:58

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:23


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