September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Perceptual learning does not affect access to awareness
Author Affiliations
  • Chris Paffen
    Experimental Psychology & Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University
  • Surya Gayet
    Experimental Psychology & Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University
  • Micha Heilbron
    Experimental Psychology & Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University
  • Stefan Van der Stigchel
    Experimental Psychology & Helmholtz Institute, Utrecht University
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 144. doi:
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      Chris Paffen, Surya Gayet, Micha Heilbron, Stefan Van der Stigchel; Perceptual learning does not affect access to awareness. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):144.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Visual information that is relevant for an observer can be prioritized for access to awareness (Gayet et al., 2014). Here we investigate whether information that became relevant due to extensive training is prioritized for awareness. Participants performed in 3-day speed discrimination training involving dots moving in two directions, of which one was task-relevant (the attended direction) and the other was task-irrelevant (the ignored direction). Before and after training, we measured detection times for reporting the location of moving dots that were initially suppressed from awareness by continuous flash suppression (a method which is often used to assess prioritization for access to awareness called breaking continuous flash suppression; b-CFS). We hypothesized that b-CFS durations for the attended direction would selectively decrease after training. We also measured motion coherence thresholds for the attended, ignored and a neutral motion direction before and after training. Results show that perceptual learning took place: during training, speed discrimination of the attended motion direction became increasingly better. Also, coherence thresholds for the attended motion direction decreased after training, while thresholds for ignored and neutral motion directions were unaffected. B-CFS durations decreased after training for all three motion directions, revealing no selective decrease for the previously attended motion. A follow-up experiment showed that b-CFS durations also decreased after three days without training, revealing that perceptual learning did not cause the general decrease in b-CFS durations. We conclude that information that has become relevant due to extensive training is not prioritized for access to awareness. Our experiments do show, however, that b-CFS durations decrease for stimuli that are shown in succession, even when measurements are separated by several days. The latter has important consequences for studies applying b-CFS to assess access to awareness. Gayet, S., Van der Stigchel, S., & Paffen, C. L. E. (2014). Front Psychol, 5, 460.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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