Context modulation of learned attention deployment

  • Metin Uengoer
  • John M. Pearce
  • Harald Lachnit
  • Stephan Koenig


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.


Attention Context Discrimination learning Humans 


Compliance with ethical standards

Author note

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.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Metin Uengoer
    • 1
  • John M. Pearce
    • 2
  • Harald Lachnit
    • 1
  • Stephan Koenig
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologyPhilipps-Universität MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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