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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Cindy Bukach


Perceptual expertise relies on cognitive mechanisms like holistic processing (HP) for recognizing objects within the category of expertise. Skilled perception in expertise generalizes to new exemplars, however recent studies in the Other Race Effect (ORE) and car expertise have shown limits in HP generalizing across domain subcategories. This research seeks to investigate where expert-related cognitive mechanisms fail to generalize, looking specifically at bird expert performance across own (East Coast USA) and different (West Coast USA, South China) geographic regions. Visual discrimination task and HP task data were collected from East Coast bird experts (n=23; n=17) and novices (n=26; 21) in addition to self-reported questionnaire data on quality and quantity of birding experience. The visual discrimination task featured a forced match exercise in which participants responded “same” or “different” to sequentially presented bird stimuli from all three regions. Results from this task were also correlated with questionnaire experience data. Experts demonstrated an Other-Region Effect in which visual discrimination for own-region birds was better than different-region birds. Overall, experts visually discriminated all bird categories better than novices. Qualitative experience was positively correlated to expert visual discrimination for same region birds, demonstrating the role of experience in shaping category boundaries. HP was measured by a composite task, featuring sequentially presented composite bird images that could vary on alignment (aligned, misaligned) and congruency (congruent, incongruent) conditions. Both novices and experts processed the birds holistically, however when correlating HP with visual discrimination ability for own and other-regions, experts demonstrated a strong positive relationship for own-region birds. While it is surprising both novices and experts use HP, this research is the first to examine a functional relationship between HP and visual discrimination in experts, relating expert-related recognition abilities to experientially formed fine-tuned category boundaries.