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Yetta K. Wong, Jonathan R. Folstein, Isabel Gauthier; Task-irrelevant perceptual expertise. Journal of Vision 2011;11(14):3. doi: 10.1167/11.14.3.
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Perceptual learning (PL) and perceptual expertise (PE) are two fields of visual training studies that investigate how practice improves visual performance. However, previous research suggests that PL can be acquired in a task-irrelevant manner while PE cannot and that PL is highly specific to the training objects and conditions while PE generalizes. These differences are difficult to interpret since PL and PE studies tend to differ on multiple dimensions. We designed a training study with novel objects to compare PL and PE while varying only the training task, such that the training objects, visual field, training duration, and type of learning assessment were kept constant. Manipulations of the training task sufficed to produce the standard effects obtained in PE and PL. In contrast to prior studies, we demonstrated that some degree of PE can be acquired in a task-irrelevant manner, similar to PL. Task-irrelevant PE resulted in similar shape matching ability compared to the directly trained PE. In addition, learning in both PE and PL generalizes to different untrained conditions, which does not support the idea that PE generalizes while PL is specific. Degrees of generalization can be explained by considering the psychological space of the stimuli used for training and the test of transfer.
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