Concept Attainment-Part 2: 3 Elements, Types, and 4 Strategies of Concept Attainment YouTube Lecture Handouts for Competitive Exams

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Concepts: Simultaneous & Successive Scanning, Conservative Focusing & Focus Gambling

  • Concepts are part of thinking

  • Learning concept is like problem solving – we must think in order to learn concepts

  • Concept cannot be formed by seeing a single instance – red toy box (red can be toy or box or apple….)

  • Person must see many examples before confirming or denying a hypothesis about concept

  • Concept learning (simple or complex) is slow process

3 Elements of Concepts

  • Examples (positive and negative) which contain all the characteristic features or essential attributes in them

  • Attributes (essential and non-essential) are the features of objects. Essential attributes are the common features of the concepts

  • Attribute value is the specific content of that category

Types of Concepts

  • Conjunctive concepts are defined by the joint presence of several attributes.

  • Disjunctive concepts require the presence of some attributes and the absence of others.

  • Relational concepts have several attributes, but these bear some kind of relationship to one another

Image of BurnderCards

Image of BurnderCards

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  • cards

Table of Features and 3 values for each feature


3 values for each feature


1 to 3


Circle, Cross, Square

Number of Objects

1 to 3


Red, Green, Black

  • Can create 255 hypothesis

  • Conjunctive concepts – joint presence of two or more features (zebra as mammal – of size and shape of horse found in wild)

4 Strategies for Concept Attainment

Simultaneous Scanning

  • Subject rationally uses information to eliminate several hypotheses and rationally thinks that remaining hypotheses can be true.

  • Eliminate all but correct hypothesis and leaves subjects with fewest choices.

  • Requires better reasoning and memory of positive and negative instances

  • Does not provide way to control the riskiness of choices

  • All red cards, all cards with circles and all red circles

Image of Properties of Instance Chosen for Testing

Image of Properties of Instance Chosen for Testing

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Successive Scanning

  • Tests single hypothesis at a time

  • First green, then square, then border and so on

  • More of guessing game

  • Does not guarantee in formativeness of choices or regulating risk

  • Used when cognitive going gets rough or one has good reason to believe that particular hypothesis is true

  • Less efficient than simultaneous scanning

  • Requires less thinking and less memory

Conservative Focusing

  • Find card with positive instance and use card as focus for future choice

  • Best for conjunctive concepts

  • Less thinking and time

  • More efficient than successive scanning – does not waste choices on positive instances that eliminates no hypothesis

  • Disadvantage – if instance is not easily located on demand

Focus Card

Focus Gambling

Subject Uses Focus Card but Changes More Than 1 Feature at a Time

  • Focus card of 3 green circles and 2 borders might change both number of circles and color to see whether you obtain positive or negative instance

  • Applied when solving in few steps brings big reward or loose little in many trials

Single Trial

  • (+) Focus Card

  • (+) 3 figures

Multiple Trials

  • (+) Focus Card

  • (-)

  • (-)

  • (-) (red is concept and not 3 figures)





  • red

Discrimination Learning

  • Concept is learnt when the ability to discriminate is generalized to other objects with same feature

  • When offer apple – say apple

  • When offer other things (ball, cup) – say other names

  • So child associates apple with fruit (size, shape, edible)

  • Conjunctive Concept – apple is any round object that one can eat (this is stimulus generalization)

  • Now there is need to differentiate between plums, pears and apples.

  • It requires appropriate words in concept attainment – discrimination (axe versus plough – used to prepare soil to sow seeds) and abstraction

  • Context – understanding concept by series of statements (axe – agricultural tool)

  • Definition – describing a concept and explaining it (axe as implement used to cut the wood)

Factors Affecting Learning Concepts

  • Transfer – when you a concept similar to one being learned, then you can learn rapidly

  • Distinctiveness – degree to which common elements are isolated, grouped or made conspicuous

  • Ability to manipulate – redraw, redesign, rearrange

  • People learn faster if all relevant information is available at the same time instead of being given only a piece of information at a time