Concept learning, also known as category learning, concept attainment, and concept formation, is defined by Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin (1967) as “the search for and listing of attributes that can be used to distinguish exemplars from non exemplars of various categories”. More simply put, concepts are the mental categories that help us classify objects, events, or ideas, building on the understanding that each object, event, or idea has a set of common relevant features. Thus, concept learning is a strategy which requires a learner to compare and contrast groups or categories that contain concept-relevant features with groups or categories that do not contain concept-relevant features.
In a concept learning task, a human or machine learner is trained to classify objects by being shown a set of example objects along with their class labels. The learner simplifies what has been observed by condensing it in the form of an example. This simplified version of what has been learned is then applied to future examples. Concept learning may be simple or complex because learning takes place over many areas. When a concept is difficult, it is less likely that the learner will be able to simplify, and therefore will be less likely to learn. Colloquially, the task is known as learning from examples. Most theories of concept learning are based on the storage of exemplars and avoid summarization or overt abstraction of any kind.