The relationship between initial threshold, learning, and generalization in perceptual learning

Gábor Lengyel, J. Fiser

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3 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the origin of two previously reported general rules of perceptual learning. First, the initial discrimination thresholds and the amount of learning were found to be related through a Weber-like law. Second, increased training length negatively influenced the observer's ability to generalize the obtained knowledge to a new context. Using a five-day training protocol, separate groups of observers were trained to perform discrimination around two different reference values of either contrast (73% and 30%) or orientation (25° and 0°). In line with previous research, we found a Weber-like law between initial performance and the amount of learning, regardless of whether the tested attribute was contrast or orientation. However, we also showed that this relationship directly reflected observers' perceptual scaling function relating physical intensities to perceptual magnitudes, suggesting that participants learned equally on their internal perceptual space in all conditions. In addition, we found that with the typical five-day training period, the extent of generalization was proportional to the amount of learning, seemingly contradicting the previously reported diminishing generalization with practice. This result suggests that the negative link between generalization and the length of training found in earlier studies might have been due to overfitting after longer training and not directly due to the amount of learning per se.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2019



  • Contrast discrimination
  • Generalization of learning
  • Individual differences
  • Initial performance
  • Orientation discrimination
  • Overfitting
  • Perceptual learning
  • Perceptual scaling function
  • Weber's law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems

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