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Jennifer O'Brien, Jane Raymond, Thomas Sanocki; The role of motivational value in competition for attentional resources. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):246. doi: 10.1167/10.7.246.
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Value associations are acquired for visual stimuli through interaction with them, which can subsequently predict both the resulting value of interaction (i.e., in terms of reward or punishment) and the likelihood of obtaining that outcome should they be encountered again. We have previously shown evidence that visual stimuli are processed in a value-specific manner, where expected value is determined by both valence and motivational salience. Under conditions of constrained attention (e.g., presentation during an attentional blink, AB), recognition of value-laden stimuli is determined by their associated valence. More specifically, a reward-associated stimulus presented for recognition as a second target (T2) in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) of non-valued stimuli escapes the AB; a loss-associated stimulus does not. Thus, when attention is limited visual recognition appears to be biased in favor of reward-associated stimuli. Here we asked whether this reward bias in visual recognition persists when value-laden stimuli are in direct competition for attentional resources. To test this, we first had participants engage in a simple choice task where they gained or lost money with high or low probability in response to choosing specific visual stimuli. We then measured recognition of these learned stimuli in a dual RSVP stream AB task, where T2 response required the recognition of two value-laden stimuli presented simultaneously under conditions of limited attention. Preliminary evidence suggests that reward-associated stimuli are preferentially processed over other valenced stimuli; however, performance is also modulated by motivational salience.
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