The Sensory nature of knowledge: Generalization vs . specification mechanisms

The aim of the present study was to show the perceptual nature of conceptual knowledge and the dialectic between conceptual and episodic knowledge. We used an original paradigm adapted from Brunel, Labeye, Lesourd, Versace study (in press) . This paradigm is divided into three phases. The first one consists in learning a variable association between a geometrical shape and a white noise. The second phase consists in a short- term priming paradigm where a prime shape (either associated or not with a sound in the first phase) preceded a pure tone. The participants have to categorize this sound as low-pitched or high- pitched sound. At least, the third phase consists in a recognition phase about the learning phase. The results have provided evidence supporting the assumption that memory mechanisms are not dissociated from perceptual mechanisms. Moreover, through the manipulation of the shape/sound association in the learning phase, we have demonstrated that generalization mechanism allowed a stimulus to benefit from the feature belonging to its category, whereas specification mechanism allowed a stimulus to keep its specificity compared to the category.