Practice can improve visual perception, and these improvements are considered to be a form of brain plasticity. Training-induced learning is time-consuming and requires hundreds of trials across multiple days. The process of learning acquisition is understudied. Can learning acquisition be potentiated by manipulating visual attentional cues? We developed a protocol in which we used task-irrelevant cues for between-groups manipulation of attention during training. We found that training with exogenous attention can enable the acquisition of learning. Remarkably, this learning was maintained even when observers were subsequently tested under neutral conditions, which indicates that a change in perception was involved. Our study is the first to isolate the effects of exogenous attention and to demonstrate its efficacy to enable learning. We propose that exogenous attention boosts perceptual learning by enhancing stimulus encoding.
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