Perceptual Learning, Aging, and Attention: Theoretical and Applied Studies
- Author(s): Nguyen, Kieu;
- Advisor(s): Andersen, George J;
- et al.
Perceptual learning (PL) is experience-dependent enhancement of our perceptual abilities. These enhancements can occur well into adulthood and thus reflect an inherent property of our perceptual systems. The expression of these enhancements can be modulated by attention. Recent research has focused on how attention modulates learning that may be informative for the development of training interventions aimed at rehabilitation. The present dissertation examined the effect of attention on perceptual learning in the context of aging in simple and complex perceptual tasks. Three studies organized into three chapters were conducted to investigate different facets of the role of attention in PL. The first study examined the effect of exogenous and endogenous attention in task-relevant PL and feature specificity. Younger adults were trained, over the course of two days, in a novel paradigm that involved detection of the presence of an additional sinewave. Participants were randomized into one of six attention by cue-validity conditions. The findings for the first study indicate rapid generalized learning irrespective of the type of attention trained. The second study examined the role of endogenous attention in PL and location transfer in the context of aging. Older and younger adults participated in a low-level perceptual orientation discrimination task, over the course of 6 sessions, and were trained with either valid or neutral cues. The findings of the second study suggest different patterns of learning and location transfer between age groups, which may indicate engagement of different mechanisms. The third study examined the effect of attention and aging in PL in the context of a high-level complex perceptual driving paradigm. Older and younger adults participated in a dual- task collision detection and steering control task, over the course of 5 sessions, and were trained with either valid or neutral cues. The findings in the third study suggest attention-related training on collision detection in a driving context improves the detection of and provides additional time needed to respond to collision objects. The findings in this dissertation regarding the role of attention and aging in PL are informative for the development of theory and for applied considerations for improving driving performance.