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Annu Rev Psychol. 2015 Jan 3;66:197-221. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015214. Epub 2014 Sep 10.

Perceptual learning: toward a comprehensive theory.

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Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912; email:


Visual perceptual learning (VPL) is long-term performance increase resulting from visual perceptual experience. Task-relevant VPL of a feature results from training of a task on the feature relevant to the task. Task-irrelevant VPL arises as a result of exposure to the feature irrelevant to the trained task. At least two serious problems exist. First, there is the controversy over which stage of information processing is changed in association with task-relevant VPL. Second, no model has ever explained both task-relevant and task-irrelevant VPL. Here we propose a dual plasticity model in which feature-based plasticity is a change in a representation of the learned feature, and task-based plasticity is a change in processing of the trained task. Although the two types of plasticity underlie task-relevant VPL, only feature-based plasticity underlies task-irrelevant VPL. This model provides a new comprehensive framework in which apparently contradictory results could be explained.


early visual cortex; location specificity; reweighting; task-irrelevant perceptual learning; task-relevant perceptual learning; transfer

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