August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Generalization of threat-related attentional priority with visual objects
Author Affiliations
  • Kirsten Moore
    Texas A&M University
  • Laurent Grégoire
    Texas A&M University
  • Andrew Clement
    Texas A&M University
  • Brian Anderson
    Texas A&M University
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5688. doi:
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      Kirsten Moore, Laurent Grégoire, Andrew Clement, Brian Anderson; Generalization of threat-related attentional priority with visual objects. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5688.

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

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Stimuli associated with punishment tend to capture attention in a visual search task, even when they are presented as distractors. In the present study, we examined whether threat-driven attentional biases can generalize to new exemplars of a category or semantically related categories using a visual search paradigm with pictures of real-world objects. In an initial training phase, participants searched for two categories of objects. One target category (e.g., shirts) was associated with punishment (electric shock) and the other category was neutral. In a subsequent test phase, participants searched for two new categories of objects. A new exemplar of one of the previous target categories or a member of a semantically related category (e.g., pants) could appear as a critical distractor in this phase. The attentional bias measured for the conditioned stimuli (i.e., stimuli belonging to the target categories presented in the training phase) was positively correlated with the attentional bias measured for generalized stimuli (i.e., stimuli belonging to the categories semantically related to target categories presented in the training phase) for three oculomotor measures (responses times, dwell times, and the proportion of first fixations to the critical distractor), suggesting a semantic generalization of threat-driven attention. However, no effect of conditioning was significant when averaged over all participants in the sample, which was the case for both conditioned and generalized stimuli. This unexpected outcome might result from a suppression effect in some participants. Overall, our findings suggest a semantic generalization of threat-related attentional priority, though future research is needed to explain the absence of a main effect of conditioning in the test phase.


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