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PLoS One. 2019 Dec 26;14(12):e0227000. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227000. eCollection 2019.

An investigation of far and near transfer in a gamified visual learning paradigm.

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Brain and Cognition, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Leuven, Belgium.


After training, visual perceptual learning improvements are mostly constrained to the trained stimulus feature and retinal location. The aim of this study is to construct an integrated paradigm where the visual learning happens in a more natural context and in parallel for multiple stimulus types, and to test the generalization of learning-related improvements towards untrained features, locations, and more general cognitive domains. Half the subjects were trained with a gamified perceptual learning paradigm for ten hours, which consisted of an orientation discrimination task and a novel object categorization task embedded in a three-dimensional maze. A second group of subjects, an active control group, played ten hours of Candy Crush Saga. Before and after training, all subjects completed a 'near transfer' orientation discrimination and novel object categorization task, as well as a set of 'far transfer' general cognitive and attentional tasks. During the perceptual learning tasks, two different stimulus features and two retinal location pairs were assessed in each task. For the experimental group, one stimulus feature and retinal location pair was trained, whilst the other one remained untrained. Both features and location pairs were untrained in the control group. Far transfer did occur in some domains across all subjects irrespective of the training regimen (i.e. executive functioning, mental rotation performance, and multitask performance and speed). Near transfer was present in both groups, however only more pronounced for one particular task in the experimental group, namely novel object categorization. To conclude, all but one near transfer task did not generalize more than the control group.

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