Modulation of spatial attention by goals, statistical learning, and monetary reward

Yuhong V. Jiang, Li Z. Sha, Roger W. Remington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


This study documented the relative strength of task goals, visual statistical learning, and monetary reward in guiding spatial attention. Using a difficult T-among-L search task, we cued spatial attention to one visual quadrant by (i) instructing people to prioritize it (goal-driven attention), (ii) placing the target frequently there (location probability learning), or (iii) associating that quadrant with greater monetary gain (reward-based attention). Results showed that successful goal-driven attention exerted the strongest influence on search RT. Incidental location probability learning yielded a smaller though still robust effect. Incidental reward learning produced negligible guidance for spatial attention. The 95 % confidence intervals of the three effects were largely nonoverlapping. To understand these results, we simulated the role of location repetition priming in probability cuing and reward learning. Repetition priming underestimated the strength of location probability cuing, suggesting that probability cuing involved long-term statistical learning of how to shift attention. Repetition priming provided a reasonable account for the negligible effect of reward on spatial attention. We propose a multiple-systems view of spatial attention that includes task goals, search habit, and priming as primary drivers of top-down attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2189-2206
Number of pages18
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported in part by NIH R03 MH102583. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Roger Remington was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP130101001 and the University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellowship 004807-3558. We thank Windy Torgerud, Hyejin Lee, Michaela DeBolt, Gracelynn Goh, Anthony Asaad, Xinyi Wang, and Yang Yang for help with data collection. Thanks also to Windy Torgerud, Wilma Koutstaal, and Steve Engel for discussions.

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


  • Goal-driven attention
  • Probability cuing
  • Repetition priming
  • Reward-based attention
  • Spatial attention
  • Visual search
  • Visual statistical learning


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