Our goal is to understand and optimize human concept learning by predicting the ease of learning of a particular exemplar or category. We propose a method for estimating ease values, quantitative measures of ease of learning, as an alternative to conducting costly empirical training studies. Our method combines a psychological embedding of domain exemplars with a pragmatic categorization model. The two components are integrated using a radial basis function network (RBFN) that predicts ease values. The free parameters of the RBFN are fit using human similarity judgments, circumventing the need to collect human training data to fit more complex models of human categorization. We conduct two category-training experiments to validate predictions of the RBFN. We demonstrate that an instance-based RBFN outperforms both a prototype-based RBFN and an empirical approach using the raw data. Although the human data were collected across diverse experimental conditions, the predicted ease values strongly correlate with human learning performance. Training can be sequenced by (predicted) ease, achieving what is known as fading in the psychology literature and curriculum learning in the machine-learning literature, both of which have been shown to facilitate learning.

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