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David Lee, Andy Kim, Brian Anderson; The Influence of Reward History on Goal-Directed Visual Search. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):1929. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.1929.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The attentional priority of a stimulus is influenced by both its relationship to task goals and reward history. Although which stimuli receive goal-directed attentional priority may at times be dictated by task demands, as is the case in many paradigms used to study visual search, in many real-world situations individuals need to choose what to search for. In such situations, it is unclear how reward history might influence attentional control when previously reward-associated stimuli are potential targets. In the present study, participants (n=31) completed a modified version of the Adaptive Choice Visual Search (ACVS) task which requires participants to search for one of two color targets on each trial; the number of non-targets in each color varies trial-to-trial. Thus, to maximize performance, the optimal strategy would be to search through whichever color stimuli are less plentiful. In the present study, we introduced a training phase in which the only one of two color targets was present on each trial, one of which was associated with monetary reward when correctly reported. In the subsequent test phase, participants completed the ACVS task in which the previously reward-associated color could be the optimal (less plentiful) color, the non-optimal color, or neither color was optimal. Our findings reveal that, in the test phase, participants were biased to search through the previously reward-associated color regardless of whether it was optimal to do so. Furthermore, participants were significantly slower on trials in which the previously reward-associated color was the non-optimal color compared to each of the other two trial conditions These results provide evidence that reward history biases goal-directed visual search even when searching for the previously reward-associated stimulus entails a performance cost.
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