Superior Identification of Familiar Visual Patterns a Year After Learning
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Practice improves visual performance on simple tasks in which stimuli vary along one dimension. Such learning frequently is stimulus-specific and enduring, and has been associated with plasticity in striate cortex. It is unclear if similar lasting effects occur for naturalistic patterns that vary on multiple dimensions. We measured perceptual learning in identification tasks that used faces and textures, stimuli that engage multiple stages in visual processing. Performance improved significantly across 2 consecutive days of practice. More important, the effects of practice were remarkably stable across time: Improvements were maintained approximately 1 year later, and both the relative difficulty of identifying individual stimuli and individual differences in performance were essentially constant across sessions. Finally, the effects of practice were largely stimulus-specific. Our results suggest that the characteristics of perceptual learning are similar across a spectrum of stimulus complexities.
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