Perceptual Learning of Spatiotemporal Events: Evidence from an Unfamiliar Modality

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Perceptual learning was examined in two experiments in which subjects, originally unfamiliar with vibrotactile stimulation, were required to identify dynamic vibrotactile patterns with static visual patterns of the same two-dimensional shapes. In Experiment 1 we examined changes in performance with practice under a variety of vibrotactile spatial and temporal conditions. In Experiment 2 we investigated transfer of learning from one set of vibrotactile patterns to another different set. In neither experiment were subjects supplied with knowledge of results. Substantial perceptual learning (improvement in identification with practice) was observed in Experiment 1, although a minority of subjects did not exhibit improvement. Experiment 2 confirmed the general findings of Experiment 1 and also provided evidence of substantial positive transfer. In both experiments, multidimensional scaling of pattern confusion data revealed that practice (and improvement in identification) did not qualitatively change the relative confusability of patterns, suggesting that the (informative) structure of the patterns, irrespective of familiarity with a specific set of patterns, determined confusability. The findings are interpreted in terms of learning constructs offered by E. J. and J. J. Gibson. We conclude by considering the prospects that a connectionist mechanism can account for the observed perceptual learning.

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, v. 15, issue 1, p. 28-44.