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Andrew B Leber; Toward a profile of goal-directed attentional control. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.7.
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Recent criticism of the classic bottom-up/top-down dichotomy of attention has deservedly focused on the existence of experience-driven factors outside this dichotomy. However, as researchers seek a better framework characterizing all control sources, a thorough re-evaluation of the top-down, or goal-directed, component is imperative. Studies of this component have richly documented the ways in which goals strategically modulate attentional control, but surprisingly little is known about how individuals arrive at their chosen strategies. Consider that manipulating goal-directed control commonly relies on experimenter instruction, which lacks ecological validity and may not always be complied with. To better characterize the factors governing goal-directed control, we recently created the adaptive choice visual search paradigm. Here, observers can freely choose between two targets on each trial, while we cyclically vary the relative efficacy of searching for each target. That is, on some trials it is faster to search for a red target than a blue target, while on other trials the opposite is true. Results using this paradigm have shown that choice behavior is far from optimal, and appears largely determined by competing drives to maximize performance and minimize effort. Further, individual differences in performance are stable across sessions while also being malleable to experimental manipulations emphasizing one competing drive (e.g., reward, which motivates individuals to maximize performance). This research represents an initial step toward characterizing an individual profile of goal-directed control that extends beyond the classic understanding of "top-down" attention and promises to contribute to a more accurate framework of attentional control.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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