Uncertainty in fast task-irrelevant perceptual learning boosts learning of images in women but not men

Abstract : A key tenet of models of reinforcement learning is that learning is most desirable in the times of maximum uncertainty. Here we examine the role of uncertainty in the paradigm of fast task-irrelevant perceptual learning (fast-TIPL), where stimuli that are consistently presented at relevant points in times (e.g., with task targets or rewards) are better encoded than when presented at other times. We manipulated two forms of uncertainty, expected uncertainty and unexpected uncertainty (Yu & Dayan, 2005), and compared fast-TIPL under uncertainty with fast-TIPL under no uncertainty. Results indicate a larger fast-TIPL effect under uncertainty than under no uncertainty without a difference between expected and unexpected uncertainty. However, interestingly, this effect of uncertainty on fast-TIPL was found in women but not in men. In men, equivalent fast-TIPL was observed under no uncertainty and uncertainty, whereas in women, confirming previous results (Leclercq & Seitz, 2012b), no fast-TIPL was observed in the no-uncertainty condition, but fast-TIPL was observed in the uncertainty conditions. We discuss how these results imply differences in attention or neuromodulatory processes between men and women.
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Virginie Leclercq, Russell Cohen Hoffing, Aaron R. Seitz. Uncertainty in fast task-irrelevant perceptual learning boosts learning of images in women but not men. Journal of Vision, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 2014, 14 (12), ⟨10.1167/14.12.26⟩. ⟨hal-01892145⟩

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