Strategic top-down control versus attentional bias by previous reward history

Jennifer Lynn, Myoungju Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Rewards modify performance so that attentional priority is given to stimuli associated with a higher probability of reward. A stimulus associated with reward attracts attention even when it is no longer relevant. In this study, we explored whether or not strategic top-down control can be employed to overcome the attentional bias from a recent reward–stimulus association. Four groups of 12 participants completed a spatial-cueing task involving two phases, in which the cue associated with the target location changed from Phase 1 to Phase 2. Attentional-bias effects toward a previously rewarded cue were demonstrated when the rewarded cue from Phase 1 interfered with the orienting toward a nonrewarded but valid cue in Phase 2. Associating the Phase 2 cue with a higher reward than had been used in Phase 1 resulted in a rapid orientation of attention to the new cue. These findings suggest that pathologies characterized by maladaptive attentional biases (e.g., addiction) may be counteracted by treatments that manipulate motivation by enhancing the subjective relevance of rewards that are less harmful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2207-2216
Number of pages10
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


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