The influence of reward history on goal-directed visual search. Academic Article uri icon


  • The attentional priority of a stimulus is influenced by both its relationship to task goals and reward history. While experiments probing goal-directed visual search typically dictate which stimuli should receive attentional priority by virtue of highly constrained task demands, individuals in real-world scenarios choose what to search for. In such complex and dynamic environments, it is unclear how reward history might influence the strategic control of attention. In the present study, participants completed a modified version of the Adaptive Choice Visual Search (ACVS) task integrated with the value-driven attentional capture design. In a training phase, participants learned to associate one of two possible target colors with monetary reward. In a subsequent test phase, they completed the ACVS task in which a target in both a previously rewarded and unrewarded color was present on each trial and participants could choose how to search. Our results reveal that participants were biased to voluntarily search through the previously reward-associated color regardless of whether the distribution of stimuli made it optimal to do so, which came at a cost in performance when searching through the previously rewarded color was a suboptimal strategy. In the absence of prior reward training, in contrast, search strategy was inconsistent with respect to color. Our findings provide evidence that reward history biases voluntary search processes.

published proceedings

  • Atten Percept Psychophys

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, D. S., Kim, A. J., & Anderson, B. A.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Lee, David S||Kim, Andy J||Anderson, Brian A

publication date

  • February 2022