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Gisella Diaz, Mary MacLean, Barry Giesbrecht; Reward-based involuntary capture interacts with voluntary attentional control during search. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1351. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.12.1351.
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Non-salient task-irrelevant features previously associated with reward can involuntarily capture attention (Anderson et al., 2011). Here we investigated the interaction between this reward-associated involuntary capture effect and voluntary attentional control. In a training task, participants (n=17) learned to associate two target colors (red and blue) with monetary reward (high/low). In a visual search task conducted one week later, target letters and distracter numbers, contained within differently colored circles, were briefly (232 ms) presented and then masked. Participants were then probed to indicate which of two letters had been presented in the search array. To manipulate voluntary attention, the search arrays were preceded by valid spatial cues (x or v) that indicated which hemifield would contain the target letter (left or right) or by neutral cues (=) that did not provide information about the target location. On half of the trials, one circle containing a distracter number was rendered in a previously rewarded color. Neutral trials did not contain a reward-associated color. Overall, there was a reward-associated capture effect, such that accuracy was significantly lower when a high, but not a low, reward-associated distracter was presented in the hemifield opposite the target. There was also a voluntary cueing effect, such that accuracy was greater in the cued condition than in the uncued condition. However, the cueing effect was diminished when the location of the reward-associated distracter was incongruent with the cued location, particularly on cued trials. The role of reward magnitude was examined by subtracting performance on neutral trials from performance on cued trials containing a reward-associated feature. Cue-distracter congruency only influenced performance on cued trials with high, but not low, reward-associated features. Our findings suggest that the involuntary capture by task-irrelevant and physically non-salient reward-associated features interacts with the voluntary control of attention to mediate visual search performance.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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