Evaluating the effectiveness of different perceptual training methods in a difficult visual discrimination task with ultrasound images


Recent work has shown that perceptual training can be used to improve the performance of novices in real-world visual classification tasks with medical images, but it is unclear which perceptual training methods are the most effective, especially for difficult medical image discrimination tasks. We investigated several different perceptual training methods with medically naïve participants in a difficult radiology task: identifying the degree of hepatic steatosis (fatty infiltration of the liver) in liver ultrasound images. In Experiment 1a (N = 90), participants completed four sessions of standard perceptual training, and participants in Experiment 1b (N = 71) completed four sessions of comparison training. There was a significant post-training improvement for both types of training, although performance was better when the trained task aligned with the task participants were tested on. In both experiments, performance initially improve rapidly, with learning becoming more gradual after the first training session. In Experiment 2 (N = 200), we explored the hypothesis that performance could be improved by combining perceptual training with explicit annotated feedback presented in a stepwise fashion. Although participants improved in all training conditions, performance was similar regardless of whether participants were given annotations, or underwent training in a stepwise fashion, both, or neither. Overall, we found that perceptual training can rapidly improve performance on a difficult radiology task, albeit not to a comparable level as expert performance, and that similar levels of performance were achieved across the perceptual training paradigms we compared.

Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications