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Generalization of value-based attentional priority

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Attention is the mechanism by which important or salient stimuli are selected for perceptual and cognitive processing. Which stimuli are attended has important implications for effective goal-directed behaviour, survival, and well-being. A growing body of evidence suggests that reward-predicting stimuli capture attention involuntarily. In previous studies, value-based attentional priority has been observed only when the formerly reward-related stimuli themselves were presented as targets or distractors. Here we show that stimulus–reward associations learned in one task generalize to different stimuli that share a defining feature (colour) in another task. Our results reveal a broad and flexible role for reward learning in modulating attentional priority.
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Keywords: Attentional capture; Incentive salience; Novelty; Reward learning; Selective attention

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences,Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore,MD, USA

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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