Learning pop-out detection: Specificities to stimulus characteristics

Merav Ahissar, Shaul Hochstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Training induces dramatic improvement in the performance of pop-out detection. In this study, we examined the specificities of this improvement to stimulus characteristics. We found that learning is specific within basic visual dimensions: orientation, size and position. Accordingly, following training with one set of orientations, rotating target and distracters by 30 deg or more substantially hampers performance. Furthermore, rotation of either target or distracters alone greatly increases threshold. Learning is not transferred to reduced-size stimuli. Position specificity near fixation may be finer than 0.7 deg. On the other hand, learning transfers to the untrained eye, to expanded images, to mirror image transformations and to homologous positions across the midline (near fixation). Thus, learning must occur at a processing level which is early enough to maintain fine separability along basic stimulus dimensions, yet sufficiently high to manifest the described generalizations. We suggest that the site of early perceptual learning is one of the cortical areas which receive input from primary visual cortex, V1, and where top-down attentional control is present.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3487-3500
Number of pages14
JournalVision Research
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Roni Laiwand for help with running the experiments and for useful suggestions. We thank Robert Shapley, Anne Treisman and Ehud Zohary for helpful discussions and comments on this manuscript. The study was supported by grants from the U.S. Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) and the Israel Science Foundation of the Israel Academy of Sciences.


  • Detection
  • Learning
  • Orientation
  • Plasticity
  • Specificity
  • Transfer


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