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Evaluating the performance of the staircase and quick Change Detection methods in measuring perceptual learning.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

The staircase method has been widely used in measuring perceptual learning. Recently, Zhao, Lesmes, and Lu (2017, 2019) developed the quick Change Detection (qCD) method and applied it to measure the trial-by-trial time course of dark adaptation. In the current study, we conducted two simulations to evaluate the performance of the 3-down/1-up staircase and qCD methods in measuring perceptual learning in a two-alternative forced-choice task. In Study 1, three observers with different time constants (40, 80, and 160 trials) of an exponential learning curve were simulated. Each simulated observer completed staircases with six step sizes (1%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and 60%) and a qCD procedure, each starting at five levels (+50%, +25%, 0, -25%, and -50% different from the true threshold in the first trial). We found the following results: Staircases with 1% and 5% step sizes failed to generate more than five reversals half of the time; and the bias and standard deviations of thresholds estimated from the post hoc segment-by-segment qCD analysis were much smaller than those from the staircase method with the other four step sizes. In Study 2, we simulated thresholds in the transfer phases with the same time constants and 50% transfer for each observer in Study 1. We found that the estimated transfer indexes from qCD showed smaller biases and standard deviations than those from the staircase method. In addition, rescoring the simulated data from the staircase method using the Bayesian estimation component of the qCD method resulted in much-improved estimates. We conclude that the qCD method characterizes the time course of perceptual learning and transfer more accurately, precisely, and efficiently than the staircase method, even with the optimal 10% step size.

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