Capture and Control: Working Memory Modulates Attentional Capture by Reward-Related Stimuli
Physically salient but task-irrelevant distractors can capture attention in visual search, but resource-dependent, executive-control processes can help reduce this distraction. However, it is not only physically salient stimuli that grab our attention: Recent research has shown that reward history also influences the likelihood that stimuli will capture attention.
The study investigated whether resource-dependent control processes modulate the effect of reward on attentional capture, much as for the effect of physical salience.
The study used eye tracking with a rewarded visual search task and compared performance under conditions of high and low working memory load.
In two experiments, the researchers demonstrated that oculomotor capture by high-reward distractor stimuli is enhanced under high memory load.
These results highlight the role of executive-control processes in modulating distraction by reward-related stimuli.
The study’s findings have implications for understanding the neurocognitive processes involved in real-life conditions in which reward-related stimuli may influence behavior, such as addiction.
Now that we have evidence that executive control processes are playing an important role in suppressing attention towards unwanted signals of reward, we can begin to look at the possibility of strengthening executive control as a possible treatment avenue for situations like addiction,” said Dr. Poppy Watson, researcher of the study as per Medical Xpress.