Learning to discriminate face views

J Neurophysiol. 2010 Dec;104(6):3305-11. doi: 10.1152/jn.00286.2010. Epub 2010 Jul 14.


Although perceptual learning of simple visual features has been studied extensively and intensively for many years, we still know little about the mechanisms of perceptual learning of complex object recognition. In a series of seven experiments, human perceptual learning in discrimination of in-depth orientation of face view was studied using psychophysical methods. We trained subjects to discriminate face orientations around a face view (i.e., 30°) over eight daily sessions, which resulted in a significant improvement in sensitivity to the face view orientation. This improved sensitivity was highly specific to the trained orientation and persisted up to 6 mo. Different from perceptual learning of simple visual features, this orientation-specific learning effect could completely transfer across changes in face size, visual field, and face identity. A complete transfer also occurred between two partial face images that were mutually exclusive but constituted a complete face. However, the transfer of the learning effect between upright and inverted faces and between a face and a paperclip object was very weak. These results shed light on the mechanisms of the perceptual learning of face view discrimination. They suggest that the visual system had learned how to compute face orientation from face configural information more accurately and that a large amount of plastic changes took place at a level of higher visual processing where size-, location-, and identity-invariant face views are represented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Learning Curve
  • Male
  • Young Adult