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Role of Attention and Perceptual Grouping in Visual Statistical Learning

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2004 by Chris I Baker, Carl R. Olson, Marlene Behrmann
Statistical learning has been widely proposed as a mechanism by which observers learn to decompose complex sensory scenes. To determine how robust statistical learning is, we investigated the impact of attention and perceptual grouping on statistical learning of visual shapes. Observers were presented with stimuli containing two shapes that were either connected by a bar or unconnected. When observers were required to attend to both locations at which shapes were presented, the degree of statistical learning was unaffected by whether the shapes were connected or not. However, when observers were required to attend to just one of the shapes’ locations, statistical learning was observed only when the shapes were connected. These results demonstrate that visual statistical learning is not just a passive process. It can be modulated by both attention and connectedness, and in natural scenes these factors may constrain the role of stimulus statistics in learning.