Occipitotemporal representations reflect individual differences in conceptual knowledge.

Through selective attention, decision-makers can learn to ignore behaviorally irrelevant stimulus dimensions. This can improve learning and increase the perceptual discriminability of relevant stimulus information. Across cognitive models of categorization, this is typically accomplished through the inclusion of attentional parameters, which provide information about the importance assigned to each stimulus dimension by each participant. The effect of these parameters on psychological representation is often described geometrically, such that perceptual differences over relevant psychological dimensions are accentuated (or stretched), and differences over irrelevant dimensions are down-weighted (or compressed). In sensory and association cortex, representations of stimulus features are known to covary with their behavioral relevance. Although this implies that neural representational space might closely resemble that hypothesized by formal categorization theory, to date, attentional effects in the brain have been demonstrated through powerful experimental manipulations (e.g., contrasts between relevant and irrelevant features). This approach sidesteps the role of idiosyncratic conceptual knowledge in guiding attention to useful information sources. To bridge this divide, we used formal categorization models, which were fit to behavioral data, to make inferences about the concepts and strategies used by individual participants during decision-making. We found that when greater attentional weight was devoted to a particular visual feature (e.g., “color”), its value (e.g., “red”) was more accurately decoded from occipitotemporal cortex. We also found that this effect was sufficiently sensitive to reflect individual differences in conceptual knowledge, indicating that occipitotemporal stimulus representations are embedded within a space closely resembling that formalized by classic categorization theory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)