Perceptual Learning in Novice Versus Expert Performance

Submitted as Assignment 1 HAY101 – Psychology 101
Word Count: 838
Author: Michael Cunningham
Year: 2011

Perceptual Learning

Perceptual Learning can be defined as a long lasting improvement in one’s sensory abilities after training; it enhances an individual’s perceptual system and helps one to adapt to the sensory environment (Seitz et al 2005). Studies on perceptual learning have found that it can have a relatively long lasting effect on an individual’s ability to better perform at certain perceptual tasks. A study conducted by Fahle & Daum (2002) amongst six patients with amnesia and six patients with healthy memory, showed that amnesic patients are able to significantly improve their performance in a visual hyperacuity task as a result of training. Both groups of subjects completed two learning sessions separated by a one-week interval, at the commencement of the second learning session, the amnesic subjects had no recollection of the previous training, the stimuli, or even the investigators. Despite this they performed significantly better at the second task than the first, which indicates that the amnesic subjects had retained information from the first learning session, even though they had no recollection of the training. The results of the study lend support to the theory of perceptual learning and it’s effectiveness at improving performance. Another study, conducted by Seitz et al (2005), demonstrated that perceptual learning could lead to subjects perceiving stimuli when none are physically presented. In this study, sixteen 18-35 year old subjects with normal vision were presented with motion stimuli and were required to report the direction of each stimulus; a subliminal motion stimulus was presented during the training period, which was too dim to be detected by students. In the post-test it was found that subjects reported seeing motion in the same direction as the subliminal stimulus when presented with blank slides. These results show that there are costs as well as benefits to perceptual learning, as performance enhancements can be accompanied by misperceptions of the visual environment.
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