Individuation, Identification and Object Discovery

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

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Charles Kemp, Alan Jern, Fei Xu


Humans are typically able to infer how many objects their environment contains and to recognize when the same object is encountered twice. We present a simple statistical model that helps to explain these abilities and evaluate it in three behavioral experiments. Our first experiment suggests that humans rely on prior knowledge when deciding whether an object token has been previously encountered. Our second and third experiments suggest that humans can infer how many objects they have seen and can learn about categories and their properties even when they are uncertain about which tokens are instances of the same object.