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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2000 Feb;26(1):379-90.

Perceptual learning of the detection of features in X-ray images: a functional role for improvements in adults' visual sensitivity?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom.


Recent perceptual learning research has found long-term increases in the sensitivity of adults' perceptual systems. The authors examined whether such changes could partly explain improvement on tasks such as perception of medical X-ray images. Experiment 1 found experts' sensitivity to low-contrast dots in X-rays was better than novices'. Experiment 2 found a direction of luminance contrast-specific improvement in novices' detection of low-contrast dots in X-rays as a result of practice. Experiment 3 found a partly specific improvement in novices' detection of low-contrast features in real medical X-rays as a result of practice. Results suggest that experience enhances sensitivity to the critical dimensions of visual analysis for detecting abnormalities in X-ray images. Importantly, they demonstrate a real-world adaptive functional role for the long-term flexibility of sensory systems in adulthood.

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