How much practice is needed to produce perceptual learning?
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We examined the amount of practice needed to improve performance on 10-AFC face- and texture identification tasks. On Day 1, subjects were grouped by amount of practice: a control group had 0 trials of practice, and several experimental groups had practice that ranged from 1 to 40 trials per condition. On Day 2, all groups performed 40 trials per condition of the trained task. The effect of practice was estimated by comparing performance across groups on Day 2. In both tasks, increasing practice was associated with greater learning, but surprisingly small amounts of practice were required to improve performance. In the face identification task, for example, only one trial per condition on Day 1 was required to increase performance relative to the control group at the start of testing on Day 2. In the texture identification task, five trials per condition on Day 1 were required to increase performance relative to the control group. In both tasks, the advantage associated with small amounts of practice declined during the Day 2 session due to larger within-session learning in the control group. Sleep had little to no effect on learning; performance depended primarily on the amount of preceding practice.
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