UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceptual learning for expertise Ransom, Madeleine


What does the expert have that the novice does not? One component of expertise may be perceptual, involving a change in what we are able to perceive. Experts develop the ability to taste the subtle flavours of a wine, hear minute variations in pitch imperceptible to novices, or distinguish shades of red that are indistinguishable to novices. More controversially, experts perceive a bird to be a northern flicker, a shadow on an x-ray to be a tumour, or a painting to be beautiful. This is controversial because a competing explanation is that experts merely apply their extensive background knowledge to selectively attend to the relevant aspects of their perceptual experience, and then make such judgments in cognition. On this explanation there is no substantive change in perceptual experience between novice and expert. In this dissertation I argue against this alternate explanation of expert ability and defend the perceptual expertise thesis: through perceptual learning experts come to perceive high-level properties imperceptible to novices. I do this in part by appealing to empirical studies of perceptual learning and perceptual expertise. The positive account of perceptual expertise I build here allows for the resolution of a puzzle in aesthetics regarding the role of training, and a clarification of the epistemic significance of perceptual learning.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International