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Mark W. Becker, Samuel H. Hemsteger, Eric Chantland, Taosheng Liu; Value-based attention capture: Differential effects of loss and gain contingencies. Journal of Vision 2020;20(5):4. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.5.4.
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There is evidence that attention can be captured by a feature that is associated with reward. However, it is unclear how associating a feature with loss impacts attentional capture. Some have found evidence for attentional capture by loss-associated stimuli, suggesting that attention is biased toward stimuli predictive of consequence, regardless of the valence of that consequence. However, in those studies, efficient attention to the loss-associated stimulus reduced the magnitude of the loss during training, so attention to the loss-associated stimulus was rewarded in relative terms. In Experiment 1 we associated a color with loss, gain, or no consequence during training and then investigated whether attention is captured by each color. Importantly, our training did not reward, even in a relative sense, attention to the loss-associated color. Although we found robust attentional capture by gain-associated colors, we found no evidence for capture by loss-associated colors. A second experiment showed that the observed effects cannot be explained by selection history and, hence, are specific to value learning. These results suggest that the learning mechanisms of value-based attentional capture are driven by reward, but not by loss or the predictability of consequences in general.
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