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Mengyuan Gong, Taosheng Liu; Reward differentially interacts with physical salience in feature-based attention. Journal of Vision 2018;18(11):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.11.12.
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A visual feature associated with reward can capture attention when it is neither physically salient nor task relevant. Although such findings suggest that reward acts similarly as physical salience, it is unknown whether reward works independently or interactively with physical salience to modulate attentional priority. Here, we first trained participants to associate two motion directions with high and low reward. During the test, we presented superimposed but perceptually separable stimuli that consisted of coherently and randomly moving dot fields, while manipulating the physical salience (low vs. high contrast) and reward history (low vs. high reward) of the coherent stimulus. Participants were instructed to identify speed-up targets on the coherent or random stimulus. We found that reward improved target detection in the coherent stimulus regardless of the physical contrast, whereas reward disrupted target detection in the random stimulus only when the coherent stimulus was of high contrast. Our findings thus suggest that goal-directed, feature-specific selection determines the pattern of interaction between reward and physical salience, such that they contribute either independently or interactively to attentional priority. We propose two possible mechanisms that can account for the intricate patterns of influence among multiple sources of priority.
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