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Sunghyun Kim, Melissa Beck; Incidental Learning of Context-Feature Associations Impacts Attentional Set. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):516. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.516.
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Contextual cueing occurs when participants form associations between a context and the location of a search target, showing that context can guide attention for where. The present study investigated influences of context on attentional control settings for what. On each trial, two placeholders were presented separated by a fixation marker. Then a cue (four red or green dots) appeared around one of the placeholders for 50ms. After a 100ms ISI, a letter appeared in each of the placeholders (one target and one distractor) and participants indicated the identity of the target (Z or N). For the training session, the shape (circles or squares) of the placeholders and fixation marker was associated with the color of the search targets. For example, when the context was circles (squares), the color of the target was always green (red). Then in the test session, the associations were broken. If an attentional control setting is formed based on the associations, green (red) cues appearing immediately before the search target should capture attention when the context is circles (squares), leading to faster responses to targets appearing at the cued location. This expected result was observed in the test session but not in the training session, suggesting that participants learned the associations but did not use them until the test session began. This effect was replicated when the break between training and test was moved to within the training (Experiment 2) and when using color cues instead of abrupt onset color cues (Experiment 3). The present study showed incidental learning of context-feature associations and that detecting a change in the association can trigger use of the association for feature-based attentional control settings. The conflict monitoring hypothesis (Botvinick et al., 2001) may explain why the associations guided attention only after the associations were broken (in the test block).
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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