Shaping attention with reward: effects of reward on space- and object-based selection.
ABSTRACT: The contribution of rewarded actions to automatic attentional selection remains obscure. We hypothesized that some forms of automatic orienting, such as object-based selection, can be completely abandoned in favor of a reward-maximizing strategy. In the two experiments reported here, we presented identical visual stimuli to observers while manipulating what was being rewarded (targets in different locations from the cue or in random object locations) and the type of reward received (money or points). We found that reward alone, not the objects, guides attentional selection and thus entirely predicts behavior. These results suggest that guidance of selective attention, although automatic, is flexible and can be adjusted in accordance with external nonsensory reward-based factors.
Project description:In order to behave adaptively, attention can be directed in space either voluntarily (i.e., endogenously) according to strategic goals, or involuntarily (i.e., exogenously) through reflexive capture by salient or novel events. The emotional or motivational value of stimuli can also strongly influence attentional orienting. However, little is known about how reward-related effects compete or interact with endogenous and exogenous attention mechanisms, particularly outside of awareness. Here we developed a visual search paradigm to study subliminal value-based attentional orienting. We systematically manipulated goal-directed or stimulus-driven attentional orienting and examined whether an irrelevant, but previously rewarded stimulus could compete with both types of spatial attention during search. Critically, reward was learned without conscious awareness in a preceding phase where one among several visual symbols was consistently paired with a subliminal monetary reinforcement cue. Our results demonstrated that symbols previously associated with a monetary reward received higher attentional priority in the subsequent visual search task, even though these stimuli and reward were no longer task-relevant, and despite reward being unconsciously acquired. Thus, motivational processes operating independent of conscious awareness may provide powerful influences on mechanisms of attentional selection, which could mitigate both stimulus-driven and goal-directed shifts of attention.
Project description:Previous research has shown that attentional selection is affected by reward contingencies: previously selected and rewarded stimuli continue to capture attention even if the reward contingencies are no longer in place. In the current study, we investigated whether attentional selection also is affected by stimuli that merely signal the magnitude of reward available on a given trial but, crucially, have never had instrumental value. In a series of experiments, we show that a stimulus signaling high reward availability captures attention even when that stimulus is and was never physically salient or part of the task set, and selecting it is harmful for obtaining reward. Our results suggest that irrelevant reward-signaling stimuli capture attention, because participants have learned about the relationship between the stimulus and reward. Importantly, we only observed learning after initial attentional prioritization of the reward signaling stimulus. We conclude that nonsalient, task-irrelevant but reward-signaling stimuli can affect attentional selection above and beyond top-down or bottom-up attentional control, however, only after such stimuli were initially prioritized for selection.
Project description:Although several studies have emphasized the role of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in associating actions with reward value, its role in guiding choices on the basis of changes in reward value has not been assessed. Accordingly, we compared rhesus monkeys with ACC lesions and controls on object- and action-based reinforcer devaluation tasks. Monkeys were required to associate an object or an action with one of two reward outcomes, and we assessed the monkey's shift in choices of objects or actions after changes in the value of 1 outcome. No group differences emerged on either task. For comparison, we tested the same monkeys on their ability to make choices guided by reward contingency in object- and action-based reversal learning tasks. Monkeys with ACC lesions were impaired in using rewarded trials to sustain the selection of the correct object during object reversal learning. They were also impaired in using errors to guide choices in action reversal learning. These data indicate that the role of the ACC is not restricted to linking specific actions with reward outcomes, as previously reported. Instead, the data suggest a more general role for the ACC in using information about reward and nonreward to sustain effective choice behavior.
Project description:Current cognitive-motivational addiction theories propose that prioritizing appetitive, reward-related information (attentional bias) plays a vital role in substance abuse behavior. Previous cross-sectional research has shown that adolescent substance use is related to reward-related attentional biases. The present study was designed to extend these findings by testing whether these reward biases have predictive value for adolescent substance use at three-year follow-up. Participants (N = 657, mean age = 16.2 yrs at baseline) were a sub-sample of Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS), a large longitudinal community cohort study. We used a spatial orienting task as a behavioral index of appetitive-related attentional processes at baseline and a substance use questionnaire at both baseline and three years follow-up. Bivariate correlational analyses showed that enhanced attentional engagement with cues that predicted potential reward and nonpunishment was positively associated with substance use (alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis) three years later. However, reward bias was not predictive of changes in substance use. A post-hoc analysis in a selection of adolescents who started using illicit drugs (other than cannabis) in the follow-up period demonstrated that stronger baseline attentional engagement toward cues of nonpunishment was related to a higher level of illicit drug use three years later. The finding that reward bias was not predictive for the increase in substance use in adolescents who already started using substances at baseline, but did show prognostic value in adolescents who initiated drug use in between baseline and follow-up suggests that appetitive bias might be especially important in the initiation stages of adolescent substance use.
Project description:Recent evidence shows that distractors that signal high compared to low reward availability elicit stronger attentional capture, even when this is detrimental for task-performance. This suggests that simply correlating stimuli with reward administration, rather than their instrumental relationship with obtaining reward, produces value-driven attentional capture. However, in previous studies, reward delivery was never response independent, as only correct responses were rewarded, nor was it completely task-irrelevant, as the distractor signaled the magnitude of reward that could be earned on that trial. In two experiments, we ensured that associative reward learning was completely response independent by letting participants perform a task at fixation, while high and low rewards were automatically administered following the presentation of task-irrelevant colored stimuli in the periphery (Experiment 1) or at fixation (Experiment 2). In a following non-reward test phase, using the additional singleton paradigm, the previously reward signaling stimuli were presented as distractors to assess truly task-irrelevant value driven attentional capture. The results showed that high compared to low reward-value associated distractors impaired performance, and thus captured attention more strongly. This suggests that genuine Pavlovian conditioning of stimulus-reward contingencies is sufficient to obtain value-driven attentional capture. Furthermore, value-driven attentional capture can occur following associative reward learning of temporally and spatially task-irrelevant distractors that signal the magnitude of available reward (Experiment 1), and is independent of training spatial shifts of attention towards the reward signaling stimuli (Experiment 2). This confirms and strengthens the idea that Pavlovian reward learning underlies value driven attentional capture.
Project description:While numerous studies have explored the mechanisms of reward-based decisions (the choice of action based on expected gain), few have asked how reward influences attention (the selection of information relevant for a decision). Here we show that a powerful determinant of attentional priority is the association between a stimulus and an appetitive reward. A peripheral cue heralded the delivery of reward or no reward (these cues are termed herein RC+ and RC-, respectively); to experience the predicted outcome, monkeys made a saccade to a target that appeared unpredictably at the same or opposite location relative to the cue. Although the RC had no operant associations (did not specify the required saccade), they automatically biased attention, such that an RC+ attracted attention and an RC- repelled attention from its location. Neurons in the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) encoded these attentional biases, maintaining sustained excitation at the location of an RC+ and inhibition at the location of an RC-. Contrary to the hypothesis that LIP encodes action value, neurons did not encode the expected reward of the saccade. Moreover, at odds with an adaptive decision process, the cue-evoked biases interfered with the required saccade, and these biases increased rather than abating with training. After prolonged training, valence selectivity appeared at shorter latencies and automatically transferred to a novel task context, suggesting that training produced visual plasticity. The results suggest that reward predictors gain automatic attentional priority regardless of their operant associations, and this valence-specific priority is encoded in LIP independently of the expected reward of an action.
Project description:Traditionally, attention was thought to be directed by either top-down goals or bottom-up salience. Recent studies have shown that the reward history of a stimulus feature also acts as a powerful attentional cue. This is particularly relevant in schizophrenia, which is characterized by motivational and attentional deficits. Here, we examine the impact of reward on selective attention. Forty-eight people with schizophrenia (PSZ) and 34 non-psychiatric control subject (NCS) discriminated the location of a target dot appearing inside a left circle or right circle. The circles were different colors, one of which was associated with reward via pre-training. In the first 2 blocks, targets were equally likely to appear in the left or right circle. In the last 4 blocks, the target was 75% likely on one side, thus allowing us to separately examine how attention was impacted by reward (color) and probability (location). PSZ had slower overall reaction times (RTs) than NCS. Both groups showed robust effects of spatial probability and reward history, with faster RTs for the rewarded color and for the more probable location. These effects were similar in PSZ and NCS. Negative symptom severity correlated with overall RT slowing, but there were no correlations between symptoms and reward-associated biasing of attention. PSZ demonstrated RT slowing but normal reward history and spatial probability-driven RT facilitation. These results are conceptually similar to prior findings showing intact implicit reward effects on response bias, and suggest that implicit processing of reward and probability is intact in PSZ.
Project description:When stimuli are consistently paired with reward, attention toward these stimuli becomes biased (e.g., Abrahamse, Braem, Notebaert & Verguts, et al., Psychological Bulletin 142:693-728, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000047). An important premise is that participants need to repeatedly experience stimulus-reward pairings to obtain these effects (e.g., Awh, Belopolsky & Theeuwes, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 16:437-443, 2012, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2012.06.010). This idea is based on associative learning theories (e.g., Pearce & Bouton, Annual Review of Psychology 52:111-139, 2001) that suggest that exposure to stimulus-reward pairings leads to the formation of stimulus-reward associations, and a transfer of salience of the reward to the neutral stimulus. However, novel learning theories (e.g., De Houwer, Learning and Motivation 53:7-23, 2009, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lmot.2015.11.001) suggest such effects are not necessarily the result of associative learning, but can be caused by complex knowledge and expectancies as well. In the current experiment, we first instructed participants that a correct response to one centrally presented stimulus would be followed by a high reward, whereas a correct response to another centrally presented stimulus would be paired with a low reward. Before participants executed this task, they performed a visual probe task in which these stimuli were presented as distractors. We found that attention was drawn automatically toward high-reward stimuli relative to low-reward stimuli. This implies that complex inferences and expectancies can cause automatic attentional bias, challenging associative learning models of attentional control (Abrahamse et al., 2016; Awh et al., 2012).
Project description:Background:Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with impairments in sustained attention, a fundamental cognitive process important for a variety of social and occupational tasks. To date, however, the precise nature of these impairments and the posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms associated with them have not been well understood. Methods:Using a well-characterized sample of returning United States military OEF/OIF/OND Veterans who varied in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, we employed a validated sustained attention paradigm designed to probe fluctuations across two attentional states characterized by prior research, including a peak state termed "in the zone" and a less efficient, more error-prone state termed "out of the zone." Rewarded and nonrewarded conditions were employed to examine whether motivating strong task performance could ameliorate sustained attention deficits. Analyses examined associations between attentional state, availability of reward, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Results:Results indicated that, consistent with prior findings, higher levels of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms were broadly associated with impaired task performance. This impairment was driven largely by performance deficits during individuals' optimal ("in the zone") attentional state, and follow-up analyses indicated that the performance deficit was primarily associated with anhedonia and emotional numbing symptoms. However, the deficit was partially ameliorated when better performance was rewarded. Conclusion:Our results provide a more complex understanding of the sustained attention deficits associated with posttraumatic stress disorder and suggest that external incentives may help to enhance sustained attention performance for affected individuals.
Project description:Investigation of tool-using behaviours has long been a means by which to explore causal reasoning in children and nonhuman animals. Much of the recent research has focused on the "Aesop's Fable" paradigm, in which objects must be dropped into water to bring a floating reward within reach. An underlying problem with these, as with many causal reasoning studies, is that functionality information and reward history are confounded: a tool that is functionally useful is also rewarded, while a tool that is not functionally useful is not rewarded. It is therefore not possible to distinguish between behaviours motivated by functional understanding of the properties of the objects involved, and those influenced by reward-history. Here, we devised an adapted version of the Aesop's Fable paradigm which decouples functionality information and reward history by making use of situations in which the use of a particular tool should have enabled a subject to obtain (or not obtain) a reward, but the outcome was affected by the context. Children aged 4-11 were given experience of a range of tools that varied independently in whether they were functional or non-functional and rewarded or non-rewarded. They were then given the opportunity to choose which tools they would like to use in a test trial, thereby providing an assessment of whether they relied on information about functionality or the reward history associated with the object or a combination of the two. Children never significantly used reward history to drive their choices of tools, while the influence of functionality information increased with age, becoming dominant by age 7. However, not all children behaved in a consistent manner, and even by 10 years of age, only around a third exclusively used functionality as a basis for their decision-making. These findings suggest that from around the age of 7-years, children begin to emphasize functionality information when learning in novel situations, even if competing reward information is available, but that even in the oldest age-group, most children did not exclusively use functionality information.