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Barry Giesbrecht, Matthias Gobel, Mary MacLean; Irrelevant social status cues drive visual attention. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):1291. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.1291.
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The value of information appears to determine attentional priority. Attention is biased more strongly towards visual cues associated with larger rewards than those associated with smaller rewards – indicating that the learned value differential affects priority. We investigated whether another value differential, social status, would similarly affect attention. Specifically, we tested whether the learned value of non-informative cues associated with the gaze of either a high status or low status partner would drive attention. Participants (n = 59) completed a visual search task synchronously in groups of three. For each participant one "partner" was designated as high status, the other was designated as low status using a deceptive manipulation prior to the task. During the task participants were presented with a pre-target cue at either the target (valid cue) or distracter location (invalid cue). After target presentation participants received feedback about whether the cue had indicated the gaze of the high status partner, the low status partner, or was randomly selected by the computer (PC). The color of the cue differed according to gaze condition (high, low, or PC). Cueing effects (valid vs. invalid RT) interacted significantly with gaze condition (p = .026). A reliable cueing effect (p < .001) was observed for the high status cue, but not the low status (p = .055) or PC cues (p = .371). These effects were similar for both the 50 and 500 ms cue-target SOAs, indicating that the effects were automatic but not subject to IOR. Reliable cueing effects (p < .001) were observed with the same cue stimuli when presented again in a non-social setting at a later date, but were no longer modulated by gaze condition (p = .893). Our results indicate that much like reward, irrelevant, non-informative social value information can contribute to value-driven attention.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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