Frequency of exposure and target salience affect the extinction of value-driven attention capture


Our work has demonstrated that previously rewarded features that remain task relevant continue to capture attention during an extinction phase. Here, we investigated the conditions under which such value-driven capture is extinguished. In three experiments (E), participants learned to associate a target color with reward, and another with no reward in a visual search paradigm. One week later, during the extinction phase, this association was no longer reinforced. In E1, the colors that previously defined targets were presented as distractors, as is typical of paradigms in this literature, however we failed to observe an effect of former reward-associations on RT, suggesting that reward did not reliably capture attention when task-irrelevant. E2 was identical to E1, but included an absent condition where neither formerly rewarded or non-rewarded colors were present. In E2 a value-driven capture effect was not observed. However, trials containing either a previously rewarded or non-rewarded distractor that had previously been selected were significantly slower compared to trials where no previously selected stimulus was present, which persisted throughout extinction. These findings demonstrate that the role of selection history (previous experience selecting a feature) appears to play a critical role in shaping attention, unique from that of reward history. E3 was also identical to E1 but targets were defined as salient shape singletons during extinction, another common feature in this literature. In contrast to E1 and E2, value-driven attention capture by formerly reward associated colors was extinguished. The rate of extinction in E3 was rapid, which could be the result of competition for attentional priority between the salient singleton and the distractor. These findings demonstrate that the extinction of value-driven capture depends on various factors that affect priority for attention, especially those features that bias attention away from reward-associated features.

ICB Affiliated Authors

Anne E Milner, Mary H MacLean, Barry Giesbrecht
Journal of Vision