Selection history contributes to suboptimal attention strategies. Academic Article uri icon


  • Attentional control balances the competing drives of performance maximization and effort minimization. One way the attention system minimizes effort is through a bias to persist in the use of attentional control strategies that have been useful in the past. In the present study, we asked whether such selection history can result in the persistence of an attentional control strategy that is counterproductive, effectively competing with a more optimal strategy. Participants first completed a training in which one color target was encountered more frequently than another, and then completed a test phase in which they could search for one of two targets on any given trial, one of which would be more optimal to search for given the distribution of color stimuli. An attentional bias for the more frequent target color was observed in the training phase and the choice of which target to report was robustly optimal in the test phase, reflecting performance maximization. Importantly, participants also exhibited a tendency to report the target rendered in the previously more frequent target color in the test phase, even when the distribution of non-target colors made it suboptimal to do so. Our findings shed light on the fundamental question of why attentional control is sometimes suboptimal, demonstrating a role for selection history in the perseveration of previously employed attentional strategies even when such strategies produce suboptimal performance.

published proceedings

  • Psychon Bull Rev

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, D. S., & Anderson, B. A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Lee, David S||Anderson, Brian A

publication date

  • October 2023