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Dr Yetta Kwailing Wong


Areas of specialism

Perceptual training and expertise; Musical notation recognition and sight-reading; Absolute pitch; Object recognition; Word recognition and dyslexia


Research interests


Felix Tze‐Hei Cho, Cheng Yong Tan, Yetta Kwailing Wong (2023)Role of line junctions in expert object recognition: The case of musical notation, In: Psychophysiology60(5)e14236

Line junctions are well‐known to be important for real‐world object recognition, and sensitivity to line junctions is enhanced with perceptual experience with an object category. However, it remains unclear whether these very simple visual features are involved in expert object representations at the neural level, and if yes, at what level(s) they are involved. In this EEG study, 31 music reading experts and 31 novices performed a one‐back task with intact musical notation, musical notation with line junctions removed and pseudo‐letters. We observed more separable neural representations of musical notation from pseudo‐letter for experts than for novices when line junctions were present and during 180–280 ms after stimulus onset. Also, the presence of line junctions was better decoded in experts than in novices during 320–580 ms, and the decoding accuracy in this time window predicted the behavioral recognition advantage of musical notation when line junctions were present. These suggest that, with perceptual expertise, line junctions are more involved in category selective representation of objects, and are more explicitly represented in later stages of processing to support expert recognition performance. Our findings clarify how the well‐known behavioral phenomenon of line junction advantage in expert object recognition is instantiated at the neural level. We provide evidence that line junctions are more involved in category selective representation of objects, and are more explicitly represented in later stages of processing to support expert recognition performance. These results shed light on how local visual features are processed in object recognition with perceptual expertise at the neural level.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Cynthia Peng, Kristyn N. Fratus, Geoffrey F. Woodman, Isabel Gauthier (2014)Perceptual Expertise and Top-Down Expectation of Musical Notation Engages the Primary Visual Cortex, In: Journal of cognitive neuroscience26(8)pp. 1629-1643 Mit Press

Most theories of visual processing propose that object recognition is achieved in higher visual cortex. However, we show that category selectivity for musical notation can be observed in the first ERP component called the C1 (measured 40-60 msec after stimulus onset) with music-reading expertise. Moreover, the C1 note selectivity was observed only when the stimulus category was blocked but not when the stimulus category was randomized. Under blocking, the C1 activity for notes predicted individual music-reading ability, and behavioral judgments of musical stimuli reflected music-reading skill. Our results challenge current theories of object recognition, indicating that the primary visual cortex can be selective for musical notation within the initial feedforward sweep of activity with perceptual expertise and with a testing context that is consistent with the expertise training, such as blocking the stimulus category for music reading.

Jennifer J. Richler, Yetta K. Wong, Isabel Gauthier (2011)Perceptual Expertise as a Shift from Strategic Interference to Automatic Holistic Processing, In: Current directions in psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society20(2)pp. 129-134

Holistic processing was initially characterized a unique hallmark of face perception (e.g., Young et al., 1987 ) and later argued a domain-general marker of perceptual expertise (e.g., Gauthier et al., 1998 ). More recently, evidence for holistic processing - measured by interference from task-irrelevant parts - was obtained in novices, raising questions for its usefulness as a test of expertise. Indeed, recent studies use the same task to make opposite claims: Hsiao & Cottrell (2009) found more interference in novices than experts for Chinese characters, while Wong, Palmeri & Gauthier (2009) found more interference in experts than novices with objects. Offering a resolution to this paradox, our work on the perception of musical notation ( Wong & Gauthier, in press ) suggests that expert and novice interference effects represent two ends of a continuum: interference is initially strategic and contextual, but becomes more automatic as holistic processing develops with the acquisition of perceptual expertise.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Isabel Gauthier (2010)A multimodal neural network recruited by expertise with musical notation, In: Journal of cognitive neuroscience22(4)pp. 695-713

Prior neuroimaging work on visual perceptual expertise has focused on changes in the visual system, ignoring possible effects of acquiring expert visual skills in nonvisual areas. We investigated expertise for reading musical notation, a skill likely to be associated with multimodal abilities. We compared brain activity in music-reading experts and novices during perception of musical notation, Roman letters, and mathematical symbols and found selectivity for musical notation for experts in a widespread multimodal network of areas. The activity in several of these areas was correlated with a behavioral measure of perceptual fluency with musical notation, suggesting that activity in nonvisual areas can predict individual differences in visual expertise. The visual selectivity for musical notation is distinct from that for faces, single Roman letters, and letter strings. Implications of the current findings to the study of visual perceptual expertise, music reading, and musical expertise are discussed.

Yetta K. Wong, Jonathan R. Folstein, Isabel Gauthier (2012)The Nature of Experience Determines Object Representations in the Visual System, In: Journal of experimental psychology. General141(4)pp. 682-698 Amer Psychological Assoc

Visual perceptual learning (PL) and perceptual expertise (PE) traditionally lead to different training effects and recruit different brain areas, but reasons for these differences are largely unknown. Here, we tested how the learning history influences visual object representations. Two groups were trained with tasks typically used in PL or PE studies, with the same novel objects, training duration and parafoveal stimulus presentation. We observed qualitatively different changes in the cortical representations of these objects following PL and PE training, replicating typical training effects in each field. These effects were also modulated by testing tasks, suggesting that experience interacts with attentional set and that the choice of testing tasks critically determines the pattern of training effects one can observe after a short-term visual training. Experience appears sufficient to account for prior differences in the neural locus of learning between PL and PE. The nature of the experience with an object's category can determine its representation in the visual system.

Yetta K. Wong, Jonathan R. Folstein, Isabel Gauthier (2011)Task-irrelevant perceptual expertise, In: Journal of vision (Charlottesville, Va.)11(14)pp. 1-15 Assoc Research Vision Ophthalmology Inc

Perceptual learning (PL) and perceptual expertise (PE) are two fields of visual training studies that investigate how practice improves visual performance. However, previous research suggests that PL can be acquired in a task-irrelevant manner while PE cannot and that PL is highly specific to the training objects and conditions while PE generalizes. These differences are difficult to interpret since PL and PE studies tend to differ on multiple dimensions. We designed a training study with novel objects to compare PL and PE while varying only the training task, such that the training objects, visual field, training duration, and type of learning assessment were kept constant. Manipulations of the training task sufficed to produce the standard effects obtained in PE and PL. In contrast to prior studies, we demonstrated that some degree of PE can be acquired in a task-irrelevant manner, similar to PL. Task-irrelevant PE resulted in similar shape matching ability compared to the directly trained PE. In addition, learning in both PE and PL generalizes to different untrained conditions, which does not support the idea that PE generalizes while PL is specific. Degrees of generalization can be explained by considering the psychological space of the stimuli used for training and the test of transfer.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Isabel Gauthier (2012)Music-reading expertise alters visual spatial resolution for musical notation, In: Psychonomic bulletin & review19(4)pp. 594-600

Crowding occurs when the perception of a suprathreshold target is impaired by nearby distractors, reflecting a fundamental limitation on visual spatial resolution. It is likely that crowding limits music reading, as each musical note is crowded by adjacent notes and by the five-line staff, similar to word reading, in which letter recognition is reduced by crowding from adjacent letters. Here, we tested the hypothesis that, with extensive experience, music-reading experts have acquired visual skills such that they experience a smaller crowding effect, resulting in higher music-reading fluency. Experts experienced a smaller crowding effect than did novices, but only for musical stimuli, not for control stimuli (Landolt Cs). The magnitude of the crowding effect for musical stimuli could be predicted by individual fluency in music reading. Our results highlight the role of experience in crowding: Visual spatial resolution can be improved specifically for objects associated with perceptual expertise. Music-reading rates are likely limited by crowding, and our results are consistent with the idea that experience alleviates these limitations.

Yetta Kwailing Wong, Isabel Gauthier (2010)Holistic processing of musical notation: Dissociating failures of selective attention in experts and novices, In: Cognitive, affective, & behavioral neuroscience10(4)pp. 541-551

Holistic processing (i.e., the tendency to process objects as wholes) is associated with face perception and also with expertise individuating novel objects. Surprisingly, recent work also reveals holistic effects in novice observers. It is unclear whether the same mechanisms support holistic effects in experts and in novices. In the present study, we measured holistic processing of music sequences using a selective attention task in participants who vary in music-reading expertise. We found that holistic effects were strategic in novices but were relatively automatic in experts. Correlational analyses revealed that individual holistic effects were predicted by both individual music-reading ability and neural responses for musical notation in the right fusiform face area (rFFA), but in opposite directions for experts and novices, suggesting that holistic effects in the two groups may be of different natures. To characterize expert perception, it is important not only to measure the tendency to process objects as wholes, but also to test whether this effect is dependent on task constraints.

Yetta K. Wong, Elyssa Twedt, David Sheinberg, Isabel Gauthier (2010)Does Thompson's Thatcher Effect reflect a face-specific mechanism?, In: Perception (London)39(8)pp. 1125-1141 Pion Ltd

The Thatcher Illusion or Thatcher Effect (TE-Thompson 1980, Perception 9 483-484) reflects the difficulty in perceiving the local inversion of parts when the whole object, generally a face, is globally inverted. We tested the generality of the TE with a range of faces and non-face objects, and observed the TE with many non-face categories including cars, buildings, bikes, and letter strings. In terms of magnitude, the face TE is not exceptionally large compared to other object categories, and the magnitude of the TE can be predicted by performance on this task for upright stimuli, regardless of whether the object is a face or not. We did not observe evidence for a unique mechanism contributing to the TE for faces. We discuss factors that influence the magnitude of the TE, some common across domains and others more specific to a particular category.

Additional publications