Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Culham, Jody C.

2nd Supervisor

Mur, Marieke


3rd Supervisor

Goodale, Melvyn A.



Active learning of novel objects can facilitate subsequent object recognition and discrimination, but the reasons for its beneficial effects remain unclear. One potential explanation is that active learning enables the formation of a more detailed, realistic, or useful neural object representation than does passive learning. The current study addressed the question of whether active vs. passive learning of objects affects viewpoint discrimination. Participants learned novel wire-like objects either actively or passively and then completed a psychophysical task which they discriminated object orientation. This study did not find a significant difference in viewpoint discrimination between actively and passively learned object representations, which stands in contrast to earlier studies that found an effect of active learning on object recognition across different viewpoints. This suggests that viewpoint discrimination and viewpoint generalization rely on different mechanisms.

Summary for Lay Audience

People recognize new objects more quickly after moving and turning them around with their hands. However, scientists do not know exactly why handling objects is so helpful. Maybe looking at an object while controlling its movements is the best way to learn what the object looks like from every angle. This study explored whether people were better or worse at telling the difference between views of objects when they actively moved the objects than when they watched videos of objects being moved by someone else. Volunteers viewed four simple, wire-like objects on a computer screen. Each person learned two objects by moving them with a trackball (active learning) and two objects by watching a video (passive learning). After learning, the volunteers took tests that measured how good they were at telling whether the objects were facing left or right. This study found that volunteers’ test performance was the same for all of the objects no matter how they were learned. These results suggest that handling a new object and watching someone else handling it are equally good ways of learning what the object looks like from different angles. There must be a reason why actively learning objects helps people recognize them more quickly, but does not help people tell the difference between views of the objects. Scientists will have to perform new experiments to discover that reason.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.