The reverse hierarchy theory of visual perceptual learning

Merav Ahissar, Shaul Hochstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

728 Scopus citations


Perceptual learning can be defined as practice-induced improvement in the ability to perform specific perceptual tasks. We previously proposed the Reverse Hierarchy Theory as a unifying concept that links behavioral findings of visual learning with physiological and anatomical data. Essentially, it asserts that learning is a top-down guided process, which begins at high-level areas of the visual system, and when these do not suffice, progresses backwards to the input levels, which have a better signal-to-noise ratio. This simple concept has proved powerful in explaining a broad range of findings, including seemingly contradicting data. We now extend this concept to describe the dynamics of skill acquisition and interpret recent behavioral and electrophysiological findings.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)457-464
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ehud Ahissar, Anne Treisman, Ehud Zohary and Matthias Munk for fruitful discussions in preparation of this review. This review was supported by a ‘Center of Excellence’ grant from the Israel Science Foundation of the Israel National Academy of Sciences and grants from the US–Israel Binational Science Foundation, the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel (to M.A.) and the Volkswagen Foundation (to M.A.).


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