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Jennifer O'Brien, Helena Rutherford, Anne Ferrey, Jane Raymond; What's in a cue? How value learning affects exogenous selection in dual-stream RSVP. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):186. doi: 10.1167/9.8.186.
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The visual world is typically full of familiar, valued objects, i.e., objects previously associated with rewards or punishers. How does the presence of such motivationally significant objects affect visual orienting to other targets that have immediate task-relevance? To address this question, we combined an instrumental value learning procedure with a dual stream rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) spatial cuing procedure that uses response accuracy to yield a precise reflection of the temporal dynamics of visual orienting (Klein & Dick, 2002). First, participants engaged in a simple choice task where they gained or lost money with high or low probability in response to choosing specific visual stimuli (faces or Chinese characters). Then, they engaged in a spatial cuing task in which the pre-learned images served as irrelevant spatial cues. Two RSVP streams of letters were presented above and below fixation. A number target, to be reported at the trial's end, was presented at a randomly chosen serial position unpredictably in one of the two streams. On each trial, a non-informative cue (face or character) was presented in each of the two streams simultaneously prior to target presentation. Cue-target lag was varied between 1 and 5 serial positions. One cue was always novel and its mate (in the opposite stream) was familiar with acquired expected value (i.e., from the prior instrumental learning session). Thus, within each experimental block we varied the cue-target lag, expected value of the familiar cue, and the location of the familiar cue (congruent, incongruent with the target's location). Although spatially uninformative, we reasoned that familiar cues (either associated with reward or punishment) might bias visual orienting. We found in two different experiments that cues associated with value, independent of familiarity, affected performance in a location-specific manner dependent on cue-target lags.
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