To the trained eye: Perceptual expertise alters visual processing

Kim M. Curby*, Isabel Gauthier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Perceptual expertise refers to learning that is specific to a domain, that transfers to new items within the trained domain, and that leads to automatic processing in the sense that expertise effects can be measured across a variety of tasks. It can be argued that most of us possess some degree of perceptual expertise in a least one, if not several domains, thereby giving the study of perceptual expertise broad application. Some object categories may in fact be objects of perceptual expertise to the majority of people: Faces appear to be one such example. Thus, the use of face stimuli, or the comparison of face and object perception, can be a powerful way to ask whether a given process is influenced by perceptual expertise. Here, we emphasize one characteristic way that face processing appears to differ from nonface processing: that is, the degree to which they recruit a "holistic" rather than a "featural" perceptual strategy. This review brings evidence that expertise influences perceptual processing together with recent findings that the capacity of visual short-term memory is greater in perceptual experts and explores the relationship between the two.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-201
Number of pages13
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


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