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Learning to Combine Arbitrary Signals from Vision and Touch


Ernst,  MO
Research Group Multisensory Perception and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

Jäkel,  F
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Ernst, M., & Jäkel, F. (2003). Learning to Combine Arbitrary Signals from Vision and Touch. Poster presented at 44th Annual Meeting of The Psychonomic Society, Vancouver, Canada.

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Humans integrate visual and haptic size information in a statistically optimal fashion (Ernst Banks, 2002). Combining such size estimates is reasonable, because, naturally, both these size cues are correlated. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether cue combination is learned on the basis of a correlation between cues. Therefore, we took naturally uncorrelated cues—the object’s luminance (visual cue) and stiffness (haptic cue)—and trained 12 subjects for 1 h in an environment in which these cues were correlated. To test whether training had an effect, we compared subjects’ discrimination performance before and after training for two intermixed conditions: In one condition, the cues were consistent with the correlation during training (congruent); in the other, the cues were anticorrelated relative to training (incongruent). We predict that discrimination performance becomes slightly better for stimuli with congruent cues and worse for stimuli with incongruent cues. In agreement with our prediction, we found a significant interaction between preand posttest for the two congruent and incongruent conditions ( p < .001). This indicates that subjects picked up the correlation during training and learned to combine two arbitrary cues. We conclude that combination of cues can be learned on the basis of the statistics of their co-occurrence.