August 2010
Volume 10, Issue 7
Free
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2010
Attention ignores rewards when feature-reward mappings are uncertain
Author Affiliations
  • Alejandro Lleras
    University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Brian Levinthal
    Northwestern University
Journal of Vision August 2010, Vol.10, 259. doi:10.1167/10.7.259
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      Alejandro Lleras, Brian Levinthal; Attention ignores rewards when feature-reward mappings are uncertain. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):259. doi: 10.1167/10.7.259.

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Abstract

Recent investigations have shown that externally-adjudicated rewards can modulate selection processes both within and between trials. In particular, when participants recently received a reward or a penalty (on the previous trial) or can expect to receive a reward or a penalty in the current trial (based on learned reward-feature contingencies), rewards can strongly guide attention, biasing selection mechanisms towards highly-rewarded information and away from penalty-inducing information. These effects are observed after participants have had extensive experience with the task and with the reward-feature contingencies (how much each feature is typically worth). Here, we investigated whether reward-based effects on attention can be induced on a trial-by-trial basis (i.e., without a consistent association between a level of reward and a specific visual feature). We used the Distractor Previewing Effect, an inter-trial bias of selective attention that is observed in oddball-search tasks: participants are slower to select an oddball target when its defining feature was shared by all distractors on a preceding target-absent trial, and are faster when distractors share a feature with the distractors on a preceding target-absent trial. Previously, we have shown that learned rewards strongly modulate the DPE. When penalties are associated with the color of distractors on a target-absent trial, the ensuing DPE is exaggerated, whereas when high levels of rewards are associated with the color of distractors on the target-absent trial, the ensuing DPE is reversed, showing now an attentional preference to select normally inhibited information. Furthermore, we observed strong within-trial biases such that items defined by rewarded features were preferentially selected, and items defined by penalized features were efficiently rejected. Our current results show that these reward-induced modulations of attention are totally absent when reward levels are randomly assigned to features on trial-by-trial basis. Under conditions of reward-uncertainty, attention ignores rewards, presumably because previous rewarding experiences fail to predict future rewards.

Lleras, A. Levinthal, B. (2010). Attention ignores rewards when feature-reward mappings are uncertain [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 10(7):259, 259a, http://www.journalofvision.org/content/10/7/259, doi:10.1167/10.7.259. [CrossRef]
Footnotes
 National Science Foundation grant to AL, award number BCS 07-46586 CAR.
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