Date of Award

Summer 6-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Alen Hajnal

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Mark Huff

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Aaron Fath

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Lucas Keefer


According to Gibson and Gibson (1955) perceptual learning is a process of developing the skill to differentiate previously undifferentiated but available information. The initial investigations focused on object identification, lacking a behaviorally relevant functional task. In the current study participants learned to differentiate between novel objects (feelies). To test the role of visual exploration objects were viewed from either a side or a top view and were displayed as either static pictures or rotating about a vertical axis. In Experiment 1 a simple object discrimination task was used. Perfect accuracy was achieved sooner in static conditions compared to motion conditions regardless of viewpoint, suggesting that visual exploration was not necessary. Experiment 2 investigated if a functionally relevant task would necessitate the usage of exploratory activity for perceptual learning. Three priming conditions were included to provide task contexts of varying behavioral relevance. Participants were required to 1) think of potential uses (i.e., affordances) for the feelies, or 2) think of one specific use provided by the experimenter, or 3) were asked to describe the object’s physical appearance using semantic labels. The opportunity to visually explore objects in varied ways benefited learning the most in the condition in which observers had to come up with potential uses for the objects. This prime promoted functionally relevant, deep levels of processing. The most efficient and stable pattern of learning was observed when participants actively generated uses for moving objects that were shown from the side view. It was concluded that exploratory activity facilitates perceptual learning of affordances.