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Template, Feature Analysis & Prototype Theory

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Are you interested in understanding what happens when we recognize new information and patterns? This lesson discusses a host of theories to help you understand pattern recognition and the human learning process. Updated: 10/31/2020

What Is Pattern Recognition?

Juliette is fascinated by the way peoples' minds work, learn, and process new information. She's studying to become a teacher, and she's more and more interested in how new ideas and information are acquired. Recently, Juliette has realized that people generally sort new information according to what is already available in their minds, but she thinks this might happen in a number of different ways.

What Juliette is interested in is called pattern recognition, or how the mind acknowledges and assimilates new information. Juliette learns that there are various theoretical approaches to understanding pattern recognition, and she wants to learn more about these perspectives. In general, pattern recognition is a cognitive process, or one that has to do with mental learning.

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  • 0:04 What Is Pattern Recognition?
  • 0:51 Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Theory
  • 1:33 Template Matching
  • 3:44 Recognition-by-Compone…
  • 4:30 Prototype Matching Theory
  • 5:31 Lesson Summary
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Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Theory

Top-down theories state that we perceive things based on our expectations of those things. For example, if Juliette chooses to walk into a bookstore, she would expect to see rows and stacks of books. Her concept of a bookstore would inform her perception.

Bottom-down theories state that we take little details from our surroundings and them combine in certain ways to form a perception. Juliette would see the rectangular shapes of the books, the lighting, edges and other factors and then make the conclusion that she was seeing stacked books. Each of the theories Juliette learns about shows one way that new information is received and synthesized with prior understandings.

Template Matching

First, Juliette learns about template matching, often thought of as the most basic form of pattern recognition. Template matching is a theory of perception that assumes that people form templates for every object they see or interact with.

For instance, the first time Juliette saw a cat, she formed a template in her mind for what a cat looks like. She formed a separate template the first time she saw a dog. Then, every new thing a person encounters is perceived and recognized based on the extent to which it matches with a previously formed template. Each time Juliette sees a dog or cat in the world, she is quickly recognizing them based on the fact that they fit into her mental template for the animal in question.

Juliette finds that template matching is a helpful theory for understanding how past experience and exposure can impact our perception. However, she wonders what this theory would say about how we integrate and understand objects and experiences that are wholly new to us.

Juliette starts to learn more about feature analysis theory, which understands perception and recognition as processes rooted in the interactions between our brains and the outside world. Feature analysis theorizes the possibility that humans and animals have neurons and neural networks that function as detectors, observing the individual characteristics, or features, of every object and pattern we encounter. In our previous example of the cat, these neurons are interacting with the different stimuli provided by the cat itself.

For instance, we perceive features like color, shape, size, and texture. Rather than fitting these features into a previously existing template, feature analysis theory surmises that we neurologically encode the features to summarize and understand what we are looking at or interacting with. Juliette sees the cat's fur, paws, whiskers, ears, and tail and finds the ''whole'' to be a cat. Feature analysis theory also functions at a higher and more complex level, as our feature detectors become attuned and responsive to increasingly complex features, or features that repeat in complicated ways.

Recognition-by-Components Theory

Juliette learns that recognition-by-components theory is another aspect of feature analysis where features of the object or pattern get sorted into their component parts as a way of recognizing them. The components are understood as three-dimensional shapes called geons.

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