December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Attentional strategy and effort avoidance: the role of environmental appraisal
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Tianyu Zhang
    The Ohio State University
  • Molly McKinney
    The Ohio State University
  • Andrew Leber
    The Ohio State University
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  NSF BCS-2021038
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 4306. doi:
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      Tianyu Zhang, Molly McKinney, Andrew Leber; Attentional strategy and effort avoidance: the role of environmental appraisal. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):4306.

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

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People frequently use suboptimal strategies to control their attention, which is at least partly attributed to avoiding the cognitive effort associated with optimal strategies (Irons & Leber, 2018). However, it is unclear which effortful task components individuals seek to avoid. Here, we focused on the role of environmental appraisal, or more specifically, enumeration. We modified the Adaptive Choice Visual Search (ACVS; Irons & Leber, 2016), a paradigm used to study attentional strategy. In the ACVS, the optimal strategy is to search through the less numerous of two color subsets. To do so, one must first enumerate the two color subsets to identify the smaller subset. Do individuals specifically seek to avoid enumeration? To test this, we designed two Cued Search Tasks which only differed in the requirement to enumerate. In the Enumeration Cue condition, participants were asked to search for the target in either a small or large subset (requiring enumeration), while in the Color Cue condition, participants were asked to search for the target in one specific color (not requiring enumeration). We then used a demand selection procedure (Kool et al., 2010), in which participants were asked to choose which cued search they preferred to do for 50 selection trials. Results showed a strong preference for the Color Cue condition, indicating the avoidance of enumeration effort. However, reaction time was considerably slower in the enumeration condition, which may explain participants’ selections. To address this concern, we ran a second experiment including a 1000-millisecond preview for both tasks, allowing enumeration to be completed before the search. Results showed similar reaction times for both tasks, while the strong preference for the Color Cue condition remained. Taken together, these results demonstrate robust avoidance of the effort associated with enumeration, offering an explanation for why individuals choose suboptimal strategies in visual search tasks.


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