October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
Environmental Updating of Attentional Goals
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Samantha Joubran
    University of Guelph
  • Naseem Al-Aidroos
    University of Guelph
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This work is supported by an NSERC grant given to Dr. Naseem Al-Aidroos.
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 159. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.159
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      Samantha Joubran, Naseem Al-Aidroos; Environmental Updating of Attentional Goals. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):159. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.159.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Can attentional goals spontaneously align to an environment through cyclical interactions between attention and visual working memory (VWM)? Representations in VWM can serve as attentional goals that modulate how stimuli capture attention; in turn, stimuli that capture attention are more likely to be encoded in VWM. Might such interactions allow new attentional goals to be adopted based on the relationship between past goals and the stimuli currently in the environment? Here, on every trial we had participants remember a shape and then complete two visual searches. In the first search, one of the distractor locations contained a shape singleton that was either a match or non-match with the shape in memory, and all items were heterogeneously coloured. The shape singleton should more strongly capture attention on match trials. Does this attentional bias cause the singleton to be encoded in memory, allowing its randomly chosen colour to serve as a new attentional goal? To assess this possibility, in search two all search items were circles, and one distractor was a colour singleton that either matched the colour of the search-one shape singleton or not. As is typically found, in search one we observed longer search times when the shape singleton matched the shape in memory, suggesting that memory biased attentional capture towards matching stimuli. We also found that, on these search-one matching trials, search-two reaction times were slower when the colour singleton matched the colour of the search-one shape singleton; no such difference was found on search-one non-matching trials. Thus, the stimulus that most strongly captured attention on search two was determined by physical properties of the stimulus that captured attention on search one. These findings are consistent with spontaneous updating of attentional goals following cyclical interactions between working memory, attention, and the environment.


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