Value-modulated oculomotor capture by task-irrelevant stimuli is a consequence of early competition on the saccade map


Recent research has shown that reward learning can modulate oculomotor and attentional capture by physically salient and task-irrelevant distractor stimuli, even when directing gaze to those stimuli is directly counterproductive to receiving reward. This value-modulated oculomotor capture effect may reflect biased competition in the oculomotor system, such that the relationship between a stimulus feature and reward enhances that feature’s representation on an internal priority map. However, it is also possible that this effect is a result of reward reducing the threshold for a saccade to be made to salient items. Here, we demonstrate value-modulated oculomotor capture when two reward-associated distractor stimuli are presented simultaneously in the same search display. The influence of reward on oculomotor capture is found to be most prominent at the shortest saccade latencies. We conclude that the value-modulated oculomotor capture effect is a consequence of biased competition on the saccade priority map and cannot be explained by a general reduction in saccadic threshold.

Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78(7), 2226-2240