Human beings are generally unique creatures. We're entirely different from lower animals and machines in many ways, but mainly because of our mental capacity and capability. One of the things that distinguish us is that exceptional ability we possess to separate patterns in our experience of the world.
Everything we experience, whether physical or not, has its pattern(s). And, in our everyday life, our special skill of uniquely identifying those things around us and automatically connecting them with some other object or idea we experienced earlier is what makes us different as humans.
A field, in Cognitive Psychology, concerned with the study of how this process occurs is called Pattern Recognition.
Pattern recognition is an interdisciplinary discipline in the field of psychology concerned with human intelligence as well as our experience with the outside world. It focuses on the cognitive process of matching information contained in our schema with that information derived from stimuli.
“Generally, pattern recognition refers to a process of inputting stimulating (pattern) information and matching with the information in long-term memory, then recognizing the category which the stimulation belongs to” (Pi, Liao, Liu & Lu, 2008). In other words, pattern recognition occurs when information from our immediate world is processed and stored in our schema, leading to the automated activation of some existing information stored in the long-term memory.
Basically, pattern recognition is dependent on our existing knowledge as well as our experience(s) (Shugen, 2002). In simple terms, this concept “involves (the) matching (of) the information received with the information already stored in the brain” (Wikipedia, 2020).
For example, in a practical class, you can easily remember an idea your teacher presented before or a picture they painted earlier probably because of the way he/she re-ignites the same experience you must have had in that previous class. Most of us read our Alphabet in the same order as we learned it in Kindergarten today because of how we were initially taught; step by step. “When a carer repeats ‘A, B, C’ multiple times to a child, utilizing the pattern recognition, the child (instinctively) says ‘C’ after he/she hears ‘A, B’ in order” (Wikipedia, 2020).
So, to further understand the processes of pattern recognition, researchers have developed some theoretical models of which we're also, in this pattern recognition psychology article, going to examine.
Three of these models were practically influenced by Artificial Intelligence (AI). They are:
1. Template-based matching model
2. Prototype-based matching model
3. Feature-based matching model
This model proposes that human memory should consist of different copies or “templates” of our individual experiences. These templates are said to correspond with the world patterns because they are also formed by the previous life experiences we had of our immediate environment.
So, when we get an external stimulus of the physical world, it is first analyzed and then compared with existing templates or copies of world patterns to find a match with the information in our schema. The best template match is then selected as the pattern of simulation to make the pattern easily identifiable or recognizable.
An underlying proposition of this theory is that related templates must have been stored in the memory prior to one's present experience with the world pattern before it'd be possible to identify a special pattern. In other words, “to (properly) realize pattern recognition, people are required to store countless templates in the memory, which will greatly increase the burden of memory, and it is also contradictory to human's high flexibility in the process of pattern recognition” (Shugen, 2002).
According to Pi, Liao, Liu & Lu (2008), one obvious shortcoming of this model is the inability to “entirely” capture “the process of human pattern recognition”, although the template and template matching process are plausible. However, as pointed out by Pi, Liao, Liu & Lu, “as aspect or link in the process of human pattern recognition, the template still works anyway."
This model was proposed as a consideration to ultimately resolve the limitations that the template-based matching model had. This model proposes that world pattern corresponding templates are not stored in the memory. Instead, what is stored are “prototypes”. It discards the consideration that the human memory stores different bits or qualities of an object but rather prototypes, “abstractive characteristics” of individual objects (Shugen, 2002).
For example, there are different models of cars or even phones, but we all know the general features of a car (or phone); the shape, color, and other physical attributes. However, according to a prototype-based matching model, it is these characteristics the memory stores, rather than the specific features or patterns of individual phone or car models.
“Theory of Prototype, in the process of pattern recognition, outside the simulation, only needs to be compared with the prototype, and the sense to objects comes from the matching between input information and prototype. Once outside simulating information matches best with a certain prototype in the brain, the information can be ranged in the category of that prototype and recognized” (Pi, Liao, Liu & Lu, 2008).
Like the template-based theory, this model also has its shortcomings, one of which is the fact that it is very vague. It also “limits the conceptualization of objects that cannot necessarily be “averaged” into one, like types of canines, for instance (Wikipedia, 2020). So according to this theory, we cannot classify similar or related objects, even if they have similar characteristics distinguishing them from other objects.
This theory focuses on the pattern as well as shape perception. It proposes that humans cognitively relate the characteristics of different patterns with what has been previously stored in the schema. Instead of just completely storing either the corresponding pattern as in template-theory or just qualities or prototypes of a particular object, as in prototype-theory, the basics of the feature-based theory is the matching of features with the objects we experience in real life (Pi, Liao, Liu & Lu, 2008).
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