Components of reward-driven attentional capture

Li Z. Sha, Yuhong V Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Recent research reported that task-irrelevant colors captured attention if these colors previously served as search targets and received high monetary reward. We showed that both monetary reward and value-independent mechanisms influenced selective attention. Participants searched for two potential target colors among distractor colors in the training phase. Subsequently, they searched for a shape singleton in a testing phase. Experiment 1 found that participants were slower in the testing phase if a distractor of a previous target color was present rather than absent. Such slowing was observed even when no monetary reward was used during training. Experiment 2 associated monetary rewards with the target colors during the training phase. Participants were faster finding the target associated with higher monetary reward. However, reward training did not yield value-dependent attentional capture in the testing phase. Attentional capture by the previous target colors was not significantly greater for the previously high-reward color than the previously low or no-reward color. These findings revealed both the power and limitations of monetary reward on attention. Although monetary reward can increase attentional priority for the high-reward target during training, subsequent attentional capture effects may not be reward-based, but reflect, in part, attentional capture by previous targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-414
Number of pages12
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Attentional capture
  • Reward learning
  • Selective attention
  • Visual search


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