Spatial constraints on visual statistical learning of multi-element displays

Conway, C., Goldstone, R. L., & Christiansen, M. (2007). Spatial constraints on visual statistical learning of multi-element displays. Proceedings of the Twenty-ninth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 185-190). Nashville, TN: Cognitive Science Society.

Visual statistical learning allows observers to extract high-level structure from visual scenes (Fiser & Aslin, 2001). Previous work has explored the types of statistical computations afforded but has not addressed to what extent learning results in unbound versus spatially bound representations of element cooccurrences. We explored these two possibilities using an unsupervised learning task with adult participants who observed complex multi-element scenes embedded with consistently paired elements. If learning is mediated by unconstrained associative learning mechanisms, then learning the element pairings may depend only on the co-occurrence of the elements in the scenes, without regard to their specific spatial arrangements. If learning is perceptually constrained, cooccurring elements ought to form perceptual units specific to their observed spatial arrangements. Results showed that participants learned the statistical structure of element cooccurrences in a spatial-specific manner, showing that visual statistical learning is perceptually constrained by spatial grouping principles.

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