Rapid acquisition but slow extinction of an attentional bias in space

Yuhong V Jiang, Khena M. Swallow, Gail M. Rosenbaum, Chelsey Herzig

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    139 Scopus citations


    Substantial research has focused on the allocation of spatial attention based on goals or perceptual salience. In everyday life, however, people also direct attention using their previous experience. Here we investigate the pace at which people incidentally learn to prioritize specific locations. Participants searched for a T among Ls in a visual search task. Unbeknownst to them, the target was more often located in one region of the screen than in other regions. An attentional bias toward the rich region developed over dozens of trials. However, the bias did not rapidly readjust to new contexts. It persisted for at least a week and for hundreds of trials after the target's position became evenly distributed. The persistence of the bias did not reflect a long window over which visual statistics were calculated. Long-term persistence differentiates incidentally learned attentional biases from the more flexible goal-driven attention.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)87-99
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2013


    • Experience-driven attention
    • Spatial attention
    • Statistical learning


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