September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Reward vs. Emotion in Visual Selective Attention
Author Affiliations
  • Takemasa Yokoyama
    Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University
  • Srikanth Padmala
    Department of Psychology, University of Maryland Neuroscience and Cognitive Science program, University of Maryland
  • Luiz Pessoa
    Department of Psychology, University of Maryland
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 451. doi:
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      Takemasa Yokoyama, Srikanth Padmala, Luiz Pessoa; Reward vs. Emotion in Visual Selective Attention. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):451. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Learned stimulus-reward associations influence how visuospatial attention is allocated, such that stimuli previously paired with reward are favored in situations involving limited resources and competition. At the same time, task-irrelevant emotional stimuli grab attention and divert resources away from tasks resulting in poor behavioral performance. However, investigations of how reward learning and negative stimuli affect visual perception and attention have been conducted in a largely independent fashion. We have recently reported that performance-based monetary rewards reduce negative stimuli interference during visual perception. Here, we investigated how stimuli associated with past monetary rewards compete with negative emotional stimuli during a subsequent visual attention task when, critically, no performance-based rewards were at stake. We conducted two experiments to address this question. In Experiment 1, during the initial learning phase, participants selected between two stimulus categories that were paired with high- and low-reward probabilities. In the test phase, we conducted an RSVP task where a target stimulus was preceded by a task-irrelevant neutral or negative image. We found that target stimuli that were previously associated with high reward reduced the interference effect of potent, negative images. In Experiment 2, with a related design, this response pattern persisted despite the fact that the reward manipulation was irrelevant to the task at hand. Similar to our recent findings with performance-based rewards, across two experiments, our results demonstrate that reward-associated stimuli reduce the deleterious impact of negative stimuli on behavior.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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