Perceptual learning involves relatively long-lasting changes to an organism's perceptual system that improve its ability to respond to its environment. Four mechanisms of perceptual learning are discussed: attention weighting, imprinting, differentiation, and unitization. By attention weighting, perception becomes adapted to tasks and environments by increasing the attention paid to important dimensions and features. By imprinting, receptors are developed that are specialized for stimuli or parts of stimuli. By differentiation, stimuli that were once indistinguishable become psychologically separated. By unitization, tasks that originally required detection of several parts are accomplished by detecting a single constructed unit representing a complex configuration. Research from cognitive psychology, psychophysics, neuroscience, expert/novice differences, development, computer science, and cross-cultural differences is described that relates to these mechanisms. The locus, limits, and applications of perceptual learning are also discussed.
Keywords: perception, cognition, discrimination, training, expertise