Punishment-modulated attentional capture is context specific. Academic Article uri icon


  • Attention prioritizes stimuli previously associated with punishment. Despite the importance of this process for survival and adaptation, the potential generalization of punishment-related attentional biases has been largely ignored in the literature. This study aimed to determine whether stimulus-punishment associations learned in a specific context bias attention in another context (in which the stimulus was never paired with punishment). We examined this issue using an antisaccade task in which participants had to shift their gaze in the opposite direction of a colored square during stimulus-outcome learning. Two contexts and three colors were employed. One color was associated with punishment (i.e., electrical shock) in one context and never paired with punishment in the other context. For a second color, the punishment-context relationship was reversed. A third color never paired with shock in either context (neutral) was included in Experiment 1 but absent in Experiment 2. Participants then performed search for a shape-defined target in an extinction phase (in which no shock was delivered) in which attentional bias for the colors was assessed. Context was manipulated via the background image upon which the stimuli were presented. In each of the two experiments, a bias to selectively orient toward the color that had been associated with punishment in the current context was observed, suggesting that punishment-modulated attentional priority is context specific.

published proceedings

  • Motiv Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • GrĂ©goire, L., Kim, H., & Anderson, B. A

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • GrĂ©goire, Laurent||Kim, Haena||Anderson, Brian A

publication date

  • June 2021