Learning one task by interleaving practice with another task

Sarit F.A. Szpiro, Beverly A. Wright, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A hallmark of perceptual learning is task specificity - after participants have trained on and learned a particular task, learning rarely transfers to another task, even with identical stimuli. Accordingly, it is assumed that performing a task throughout training is a requirement for learning to occur on that specific task. Thus, interleaving training trials of a target task, with those of another task, should not improve performance on the target task. However, recent findings in audition show that interleaving two tasks during training can facilitate perceptual learning, even when the training on neither task yields learning on its own. Here we examined the role of cross-task training in the visual domain by training 4 groups of human observers for 3 consecutive days on an orientation comparison task (target task) and/or spatial-frequency comparison task (interleaving task). Interleaving small amounts of training on each task, which were ineffective alone, not only enabled learning on the target orientation task, as in audition, but also surpassed the learning attained by training on that task alone for the same total number of trials. This study illustrates that cross-task training in visual perceptual learning can be more effective than single-task training. The results reveal a comparable learning principle across modalities and demonstrate how to optimize training regimens to maximize perceptual learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalVision Research
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by NIH- United States , Grant R01 EY016200 (MC) and NIH- United States , Grant RO1 DC004453 (BAW).


  • Comparison task
  • Cross-task training
  • Orientation
  • Perceptual learning
  • Spatial-frequency
  • Transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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