Context modulation of learned attention deployment
In three experiments, we investigated the contextual control of attention in human discrimination learning. In each experiment, participants initially received discrimination training in which the cues from Dimension A were relevant in Context 1 but irrelevant in Context 2, whereas the cues from Dimension B were irrelevant in Context 1 but relevant in Context 2. In Experiment 1, the same cues from each dimension were used in Contexts 1 and 2, whereas in Experiments 2 and 3, the cues from each dimension were changed across contexts. In each experiment, participants were subsequently shifted to a transfer discrimination involving novel cues from either dimension, to assess the contextual control of attention. In Experiment 1, measures of eye gaze during the transfer discrimination revealed that Dimension A received more attention than Dimension B in Context 1, whereas the reverse occurred in Context 2. Corresponding results indicating the contextual control of attention were found in Experiments 2 and 3, in which we used the speed of learning (associability) as an indirect marker of learned attentional changes. Implications of our results for current theories of learning and attention are discussed.
KeywordsAttention Context Discrimination learning Humans
Compliance with ethical standards
The research reported in this article was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through Grant UE 155/1-2 and Grant SFB/TRR 135, TP B04, to M.U. and H.L., respectively.
- Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate—A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B, 57, 289–300.Google Scholar
- Kamin, L. J. (1968). “Attention-like” processes in classical conditioning. In M. R. Jones (Ed.), Miami Symposium on the Prediction of Behavior: Aversive stimulation (pp. 9–31). Miami, FL: University of Miami Press.Google Scholar
- Pearce, J. M., George, D. N., & Redhead, E. S. (1998). The role of attention in the solution of conditional discriminations. In N. A. Schmajuk & P. C. Holland (Eds.), Occasion setting: Associative learning and cognition in animals. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Pearce, J. M., & Mackintosh, N. J. (2010). Two theories of attention: A review and a possible integration. In C. J. Mitchell & M. E. Le Pelley (Eds.), Attention and associative learning: From brain to behaviour (pp. 11–39). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sutherland, N. S., & Mackintosh, N. J. (1971). Mechanisms of animal discrimination learning. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar